The businessman at the helm of BHS when it collapsed is facing an unlimited fine after being convicted of failing to co-operate with The Pensions Regulator (TPR).
Dominic Chappell, who bought the chain for £1 from Sir Philip Green a year before it entered administration, was convicted of three counts of neglecting or refusing to provide information and documents.
During the four day trial at Brighton Magistrates Court, the prosecutor described how the case centred on official requests for information both before and after BHS collapsed.
At that time, in 2016, 11,000 staff lost their jobs and the retailer had a pension deficit of £571m – though Sir Philip later agreed to pay £363m to help plug the black hole.
While giving evidence in his defence, Mr Chappell insisted he had given his all in trying to comply with TPR’s requests – saying his efforts had taken a toll on his health.
He further claimed many documents had been destroyed before he took control of the business and he was prevented from entering BHS offices for months after BHS ceased trading.
His lawyer described TPR’s case as a “sham” trial – the result of “50 years of their negligence and we say Mr Chappell is the scapegoat for that,” he told the court.
The prosecution accused him of making up his defence as he went along.
District Judge Ashworth, who presided over the case, dismissed Mr Chappell’s grounds for defence following seven hours of deliberations as “simply not believable”.
He described him as not a credible witness.
On the steps of the court Mr Chappell said he was “extremely disappointed and annoyed” by the outcome.
He confirmed he would appeal the verdict after a process, he said, that had not been fair.
Sentencing is due to take place next week to allow for reports to be completed on the former bankrupt businessman’s financial status.
TPR is still pursuing him for a contribution to the BHS pension schemes.
A spokesman for the regulator said: “Our separate anti-avoidance action against Dominic Chappell continues.
“TPR’s determinations panel is considering evidence submitted by various parties and is expected to be in a position to issue its written determination notice to affected parties in the coming weeks.”
(c) Sky News 2018: Ex-BHS owner Chappell guilty in pension case