Chappell went ‘above and beyond’ to provide information, appeal hearing told
The former BHS owner is appealing against his convictions in relation to the firm’s pension schemes.
Former BHS owner Dominic Chappell has told the appeal hearing against his pensions convictions that he went “above and beyond” in attempts to provide the information required to The Pensions Regulator (TPR).
The 51-year-old ex-racing driver was ordered to pay more than £87,000, including a £50,000 fine, after being found guilty in January of failing to provide information to TPR about the firm’s pensions schemes when it collapsed with the loss of thousands of jobs.
Alex Stein, prosecuting, has told the appeal hearing at Hove Crown Court that the “crux” of the case was that Chappell “failed to respond” to three statutory notices demanding information.
Chappell was issued with two notices, known as section 72s under the Pensions Act 2004, in March and April 2016, before being handed a warning notice in November that year.
Appealing against the convictions, Chappell said: “I spent tens of thousands of pounds on this, I spent hundreds of man hours trying to get the necessary information together.”
He said the warning notice was made up of 300 pages with 12,500 documents attached and added: “It is a mammoth task to go through the documentation.”
He added: “We were working for a long period of time to get the information they required, it was an extremely challenging three months trying to get a single piece of paper from anybody.”
He continued: “I literally had an avalanche of commitment on this, I am just an individual not a corporation and I could not deal with the voluminous amount of work, we had thousands of documents to collate.
“I was simply drowning in administration procedures and everybody, and I mean everybody, was shouting.”
Chappell said that his attempts to gather information were further hampered when his home, office and his accountant’s office were raided by the HMRC on November 2, 2016.
He said: “They took every mobile device, every iPad, every computer, every file, every photo, they left me with nothing, not even a single receipt at my office, my home and my accountant’s.
“Everything was taken away so I couldn’t take it any further.”
The self-described entrepreneur, who lives near Blandford Forum in Dorset, said that one of the section 72 notices related to a phone call he had received from a journalist.
Chappell told the court that he had asked his solicitor to respond to TPR about this.
He said: “I was under the understanding it had been dealt with. From the day of this notice I have not heard anything further and I assumed it had been dealt with.
“I didn’t answer it, I instructed my lawyer to do so.”
Chappell said he had fallen ill with a bug following a trip to Turkey, which had put him out of action for 10 days, creating a further obstacle to him responding to TPR.
The director of company Retail Acquisitions bought British Home Stores for £1 from billionaire Sir Philip Green in March 2015.
BHS went into administration in April 2016, leaving a £571 million pension deficit.
Sir Philip later agreed to pay £363 million towards this.
TPR investigated after the sale, over concerns about two pension schemes representing 19,000 members of staff.
When asked by Mr Stein if he had any supporting evidence for his version of events, Chappell responded that he had not.
The hearing was adjourned until Wednesday when Chappell will continue giving his evidence.