Former BHS owner found guilty of breaking pension law at Brighton court

Posted On 12 Jan 2018 at 8:03 am

The former owner of BHS (British Home Stores) has been found guilty of breaking pension law by a judge sitting in Brighton.

Dominic Chappell, 51, of Clenston Manor, Winterbourne Clenston, Blandford Forum, Dorset, denied three counts of failing to hand information to the Pensions Regulator when required.

He was found guilty of all three charges after a four-day trial at Brighton Magistrates’ Court.

On the steps of the court Chappell said that he would appeal against his conviction.

In court yesterday (Thursday 11 January) District Judge William Ashworth adjourned the case until next Friday (19 January) when Chappell is due to be sentenced at Winchester Crown Court.

Chappell was the main shareholder of Retail Acquisitions Limited which bought BHS for £1 from Top Shop boss Sir Philip Green.

When the store chain went bust just over a year later, in April 2016, 11,000 staff lost their jobs, including dozens at the Churchill Square branch in Brighton.

The business had a £570 million black hole in its pension fund although Sir Philip has since agreed to pay more than £360 million towards the shortfall.

The Pensions Regulator, which is based in Brighton, served a legal notice requiring Chappell to hand over information about the sale and subsequent collapse of BHS.

This included information about those involved in the deal as well as transactions involving BHS and Retail Acquisitions after the sale was completed.

The regulator has been investigating what happened, not least to try to provide as much protection as possible to almost 20,000 people entitled to a BHS pension.

The court was told that Chappell also failed to provide the Pensions Regulator with information about a possible “unauthorised disclosure of restricted material”.

But he accused the regulator of being responsible for the leak.

The court found that Chappell was guilty of three charges of neglecting or refusing to provide information and documents without a reasonable excuse.

The regulator said that it was the fifth criminal conviction that it had secured against individuals or organisations for failing to comply with legal notices to provide information.

Nicola Parish, the Pensions Regulator’s executive director of frontline regulation, said: “We are satisfied with the outcome of this case, the latest in a series of successful prosecutions by the Pensions Regulator for offences of this kind.

“Dominic Chappell failed to provide us with information we had requested in connection with our investigation into the sale and ultimate collapse of BHS, despite numerous requests.

“The power to demand specific information is a key investigative tool in our work to protect people’s pensions.

“This conviction shows that the courts recognise its importance and that anyone who fails to co-operate with our information notices risks getting a criminal record.”

The Pensions Regulator’s separate anti-avoidance action against Mr Chappell in respect of the BHS pension schemes is continuing.

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