The former boss of BHS failed to provide information numerous times about the collapsed department store chain’s pension schemes, a court heard.The Pensions Regulator alleges that it asked Dominic Chappell, who bought BHS for £1 from Sir Philip Green, three times for information.However, it claims that Mr Chappell failed to comply.Mr Chappell denies three charges of failing to hand over information to the regulator. BHS went bust in April 2016, leaving a £571m pensions deficit.Mr Chappell, a former bankrupt, bought BHS in March 2015 through his business Retail Acquisitions (RAL). Alex Stein, the barrister representing The Pensions Regulator, told the court that at the time of the sale BHS’s two pension schemes had 19,000 members and a combined deficit in the region of £500m.”The regulator then launched an investigation into the sale,” he said.
Mr Stein claims Mr Chappell was asked to provide information to The Pensions Regulator (TPR) on two occasions in April and May 2016 and a third time in February 2017.”Despite numerous reminders and assurances from the defendant and his advisers nothing has been received in relation to the (first) two notices,” he said.The third request was in relation to an alleged leak of information from a confidential warning notice sent out in November 2016.Phone call Mr Chappell’s lawyer Michael Levy claimed that his client received a call while driving from someone who did not give a name but said they were from the Daily Telegraph.Mr Levy said: “The person who is speaking on the telephone starts quoting paragraphs and pages from the warning notice.”Mr Levy said Mr Chappell told his lawyer, adding that his client “phones the office of TPR that day and speaks to someone he doesn’t know. He reports that. Later on, some weeks later he reports that in a letter to TPR. He has reported it.”Mr Stein told the court there was no record of Mr Chappell’s phone call, adding: “That account has never been given to the regulator before, ‘I took a call from someone from the Telegraph’.”Mr Chappell received £2.5m in payments from the company in his year of ownership.The Pensions Regulator has already reached a deal with Sir Phillip Green, who sold BHS to Mr Chappell, to shore up the company’s pension scheme with an extra £360m.However, the pension payments will still be lower than expected, and the regulator continues to investigate whether Mr Chappell should make a contribution as well. He has always denied responsibility and has pledged to “vigorously defend ridiculous claims”.The charge of not providing information to the Pensions Regulator is a criminal one, and carries an unlimited fine.
Source: BBC News