Pensions Regulator  

Regulator accused in court of 15 years of negligence

 Regulator accused in court of 15 years of negligence

The former owner of BHS, Dominic Chappell, is a "political scapegoat" for the failure of high street chain and the case against him is a "sham" and a "show trial," a court was told today (11 January)

Thrice bankrupt Chappell, 51 is on trial for neglecting or refusing to provide information and documents to the pensions watchdog.

He bought the chain from billionaire Sir Philip Green for just £1 back in 2015 but the company subsequently crashed just 13 months later leaving pensions black hole of around £571m.

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He faces three charges of failing to provide investigators from The Pensions Regulator (TPR) with vital documents and information to investigators.

But in closing speeches today (11 January) Michael Levy, defending, told the court that Chappell had been hung out to dry.

Mr Levy said: "This trial is a sham. It is a show trial and it is political."

He said the case was nothing more than an attempt by The Pensions Regulator to make up for 15 years of negligence.

He said their neglect to tackle BHS while it was under the tenure of Sir Philip Green resulted in a "pension blackhole of gargantuan proportions."

He said: "It is a meaningless attempt by them [The Pensions Regulator] to make up for 15 years of negligence and Mr Chappell is nothing more than a scapegoat for that.

"He is in fact the man who tried to save BHS. And it is not too dramatic to say he now sits alone in the court dock on a cold January morning while those actually responsible tiptoe across the sun-kissed sands of the Caribbean."

The sensational claims came on the final day of the four day trial at Brighton Magistrates Court.

Up to 11,000 people lost their jobs with the collapse of the high street chain and the pensions of 19,000 members were thrown put in jeopardy - though Sir Philip later agreed to pay £363m towards the pension deficit.

Chappell was accused of failing to give information to The Pensions Regulator (TPR) over two BHS pension schemes, which had a combined total of 19,000 members.

He is charged with neglecting or refusing to provide information and documents in April and May 2016 and February 2017.

Earlier Chappell told the court that shortly before he bought the doomed high street chain staff had been seen putting bin bags of documents into an industrial-sized shredder located in the back of the BHS HQ in London.

Alex Stein, prosecuting, said the regulator used a "stick and carrot" approach to get someone to comply but was always reasonable under the Parliamentary statute.

Mr Stein said: "This defendant has refused to provide, to the best of his abilities, responses to the Section 72s.

"When you look at all of the evidence as a whole you get a clear picture of obfuscation on behalf of the defendant."

The case continues.