Dominic Chappell, the majority shareholder of the company that bought now-defunct British retailer BHS for £1, has been convicted of failing to give information to The Pensions Regulator (TPR).
“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,” said Nicola Parish, TPR’s executive director of frontline regulation, in a statement.
“The power to demand specific information is a key investigative tool in our work to protect people’s pensions,” she added. “This conviction shows that the courts recognize its importance, and that anyone who fails to cooperate with our information notices risks getting a criminal record.”
Chappell was found guilty of three charges of neglecting or refusing to provide information and documents, without a reasonable excuse. He failed to provide information TPR had required as part of its investigation into the sale and then collapse of BHS, including information about the purchase of BHS by Retail Acquisitions Ltd., and the participants involved, including transactions involving BHS and Retail Acquisitions Ltd. after the sale had been completed.
TPR announced in August that it was using powers under section 72 of the Pensions Act 2004 to prosecute Chappell for stonewalling the regulator during its investigation. Chappell also failed to provide TPR with information about a possible unauthorized disclosure of restricted material. Chappell has denied the charges.
District Judge William Ashworth adjourned the case until Jan. 19, when Chappell will be sentenced at Winchester Crown Court. The case is the fifth criminal conviction initiated by TPR against individuals or organizations for failing to comply with section 72 notices. Under section 72 of the Pensions Act 2004, TPR has the power to require recipients of a section 72 notice to provide it with information and documents relevant to its statutory functions.
TPR’s separate anti-avoidance action against Chappell regarding the BHS pension plans is still ongoing.