Ex-BHS owner ordered to pay £120,000 for breaching pension law
Dominic Chappell was re-sentenced at Hove Crown Court on Friday after losing an appeal against his conviction.
Former BHS owner Dominic Chappell has been ordered to pay more than £120,000 for breaching pension law when the firm collapsed with the loss of thousands of jobs.
The 52-year-old ex-racing driver was found guilty in January of not giving The Pensions Regulator (TPR) vital documents about the company’s pension scheme after it went into administration in 2016.
Chappell, of Blandford Forum, Dorset, was re-sentenced at Hove Crown Court on Friday after losing an appeal against his conviction earlier this year.
Sentencing, Judge Christine Henson QC criticised Chappell for showing a “complete lack of remorse” in relation to his offences, that represented a “blatant” refusal to comply with pension law.
She ordered Chappell to pay a £50,000 fine and £73,900 in court costs.
I'm not a Philip Green sitting on a £100 million yacht in the south of France who writes a cheque for £350 million to make the problem go away Dominic Chappell
As the director of company Retail Acquisitions, Chappell bought BHS for £1 from billionaire Sir Philip Green in March 2015.
BHS went into administration in April 2016, leaving a £571 million pension deficit – with Sir Philip later agreeing to pay £363 million towards this.
Prosecutor Alex Stein argued Chappell had shown a “persistent, deliberate and blatant” refusal to comply with pension law.
He said the self-described entrepreneur had not provided “full and frank” disclosure of his financial information ahead of sentencing – including in relation to a yacht called Maverick II and a property in Marbella, Spain.
Representing himself in court because he cannot afford legal fees, Chappell denied owning the boat and said he temporarily held the Spanish home in trust for his sick mother at no gain to himself.
He also denied having any “hidden assets” and said he did not have “cash available” to pay any fine.
Chappell argued it had been “nigh on impossible” to provide relevant information to TPR because he was locked out of the BHS office upon its collapse.
He claimed the purchase of the High Street chain had relied on undertakings by Sir Philip Green and an audit by PricewaterhouseCoopers.
“I’m not a Philip Green sitting on a £100 million yacht in the south of France who writes a cheque for £350 million to make the problem go away,” he said. “I’m a victim of the circumstances that came out of British Home Stores. I wish to god we never got involved in it.”
Following the sale of BHS, TPR launched an investigation over concerns about two pension schemes representing 19,000 members of staff.
Information notices are a vital investigative tool for us. As this case shows, if you ignore them you are committing a crime and should expect to be prosecuted Nicola Parish, TPR
Chappell was issued with two notices in March and April 2016, known as section 72s under the Pensions Act 2004, before being handed a warning notice in November that year.
He claimed he did “everything and more” to help TPR but was convicted of three charges of failing to provide information to the regulator under the Act in January after a four-day trial.
At his first sentencing he was ordered to pay more than £87,000, including a £50,000 fine.
Chappell lost an appeal against his sentence in September, with a judge criticising him for giving “evasive and unbelievable” evidence to the court.
Nicola Parish, TPR’s executive director of frontline regulation, said Chappell had “consistently refused” to provide the organisation the information it demanded.
“Information notices are a vital investigative tool for us. As this case shows, if you ignore them you are committing a crime and should expect to be prosecuted,” she said.
TPR said its separate anti-avoidance actions against Chappell in respect of the BHS pension schemes are continuing.