Former BHS owner Dominic Chappell arrives at Brighton Magistrates’ Court
FORMER BHS owner Dominic Chappell claims he failed to provide information to the pension regulator because he was “locked out” of the firm by administrators following its collapse, a court heard.
Former bankrupt Chappell, 51, was the director of Retail Acquisitions, the company that acquired BHS, for just £1 from billionaire Sir Philip Green in 2015.
He is accused of failing to provide information about the high street chain’s two pension schemes to investigators after it folded with the loss of thousands of jobs.
The chain went into administration in April 2016, leaving a £571 million pension deficit, although Sir Philip later agreed to pay £363 million towards it.
Chappell is accused of failing three times to give information to The Pensions Regulator (TPR) over BHS’s pension schemes, which had a combined total of 19,000 members.
He had been issued with section 72 notices – requests to provide information to TPR under the Pensions Act – on two occasions in April and May 2016 and a third time in February 2017, Brighton Magistrates’ Court heard.
The third notice relates to a request by TPR for information from Chappell about an alleged leak of information to the media from a confidential “warning notice” sent out in November 2016, the court heard.
But Michael Levy, for Chappell, told Claire Boorman, senior case manager at TPR, that the regulator had “set Mr Chappell up to fail”.
“By 27 May (2016) Mr Chappell has been out of BHS for over a month – he’s locked out and he phones you up on the day that the second section 72 notice runs out, he rings you and says there’s a problem,” he said.
“He’s been cut off from all access to all information.”
Ms Boorman, who started giving evidence on Monday, said if he had been unable to meet the deadline, he should have got in contact with TPR.
“It says on the notice ‘please provide a full and detailed explanation’ – you wouldn’t necessarily need access to the documents,” she said.
She continued: “It said to put in writing to us all the information he could provide and when, and all the information he couldn’t provide. If he had legal representation then his lawyers could help him in producing that information to the regulator.”
Mr Levy said that during the same period Chappell had been subject to raids by HMRC and vast amounts of documents and electronic devices seized.
He accused TPR of being fully aware of Chappell’s troubles with the tax authorities and of ignoring the fact he no longer had access to sensitive information before sending out the final warning notice.
Chappell, of Clenston Manor, near Blandford Forum in Dorset, denies three charges of neglecting or refusing to provide information and documents, without a reasonable excuse, contrary to the Pensions Act 2004.
Source: The Argus