Dominic Chappell, the majority shareholder of Retail Acquisitions, the organisation that bought BHS for £1, has lost his appeal against his conviction and sentence for failing to provide information to The Pensions Regulator (TPR) during the sale of BHS.
Chappell was originally convicted on 11 January 2018 by district judge William Ashworth at Brighton Magistrates’ Court. Judge Ashworth found Chappell guilty of three charges of neglecting or refusing to provide information and documents without a reasonable excuse. Chappell denied the charges.
As a result of these convictions, Chappell was sentenced to pay £87,170 at Barkingside Magistrates’ Court on Friday 23 February 2018. This comprised a £50,000 fine, a £37,000 costs payment and a £170 victim surcharge.
Under section 72 of the Pensions Act 2004, Chappell was legally obliged to provide certain information regarding the purchase of BHS by Retail Acquisition and the participants involved, as well as information pertaining to transactions involving BHS and Retail Acquisition after the sale was complete. TPR had requested this information in its ongoing investigation to protect pensions.
Chappell further failed to inform the work-based pension schemes regulator about a possible disclosure of restricted material.
Failure to provide the requested information to TPR, without a reasonable excuse, is a criminal offence in the UK and can result in an unlimited fine if dealt with in a magistrates’ court.
Chappell appealed his conviction and sentence, requesting that the case be reheard in the Crown Court. However, he lost this appeal on Friday 21 September 2018 at Hove Crown Court. The case has now been adjourned for sentencing, with a date yet to be fixed.
TPR is still pursuing a separate anti-avoidance action against Chappell regarding the BHS pension schemes.
Judge Christine Henson, who sat with two magistrates for the appeal, said: “We have concluded that the majority of answers given by the appellant were not credible. He had not provided any reliable evidence to support any of the reasons he says provide him with a reasonable excuse.”
Nicola Parish, executive director of frontline regulation at TPR, added: “We are pleased that the court has confirmed that Dominic Chappell was wrong when he failed to provide us with information we required as part of our BHS investigation. Three different judges have now criticised his behaviour and he is left with a criminal conviction.
“This case should stand as a further warning to others that if we require information from then and they fail or refuse to provide it, they should expect to be prosecuted and convicted.”