Dominic Chappell 'dishonestly' evaded tax on income from buying failed BHS, court told

Emily Lawford
·3-min read
Getty Images
Getty Images

Dominic Chappell evaded tax on the £2.2 million income he received after purchasing the failed BHS high street chain from billionaire Sir Philip Green, a court has heard.

The businessman was “simply too busy” to sort out his financial dealings properly, and was “let down by others”, a jury at London’s Southwark Crown Court was told.

Prosecutor Mark Bryant-Heron QC said Chappell claims he was “misled” by Sir Philip.

Chappell, 53, of Blandford Forum, Dorset, is accused of dishonesty regarding VAT, corporation tax and income tax between January 2014 and September 2016.

He denies three charges of cheating the public revenue related to his bankrupt finance company Swiss Rock Limited.

Mr Bryant-Heron said: “The conduct throughout the period discloses that tax was the last thing he was going to pay.

Dominic Chappell is accused of dishonesty regarding VAT, corporation tax and income tax (AFP via Getty Images)
Dominic Chappell is accused of dishonesty regarding VAT, corporation tax and income tax (AFP via Getty Images)

“He used the money to fund his lifestyle.”

It is alleged the aim was to “defraud” or act “to the prejudice” of the Commissioners for Revenue and Customs.

Chappell was a key part of the consortium which bought BHS for £1 in 2015, just over a year before it collapsed, causing 11,000 job losses.

Mr Bryant-Heron told the court: “He had the financial means to pay the tax, and was able to raise funds.

“He dishonestly chose not to pay tax. In relation to VAT he did not even make any VAT returns as required to.

“He ignored his duty and legal liability to pay tax, until eventually HMRC had to take enforcement action to wind up the company for non-payment.”

Chappell’s defence is that “he was not dishonest and he was simply too busy to attend to his tax liability and was let down by others”, he said.

The court heard that Chappell became concerned in 2016 about the quality of the advice he was receiving and he believed the accounts and the tax liability were “misstated”.

Mr Bryant-Heron said: “More specifically, his case is that he was misled by the gentleman who sold BHS to him, Sir Philip Green.”

This related to whether the substantial BHS employees’ pension fund deficit which existed at the time of the sale would be paid up by the seller to the satisfaction of the pension regulator before the BHS sale took place.

Mr Bryant-Heron said: “Dominic Chappell maintains that BHS was forced into liquidation because of the actions of Sir Philip Green in reneging on promises of financial support for the pension fund, and going back on a promise to provide working capital to BHS after the sale.

“His case is, in short, that had BHS not failed, he would have had the funds to pay his tax liability.”

Chappell is charged with providing false or misleading information and failing to submit VAT returns.

It is alleged that he did not pay VAT, and did not arrange for the correct VAT amounts to be registered.

He is also accused of failing to pay corporation tax and personal income tax from dividends he received from Swiss Roc

The prosecution says that due to his role as director of Swiss Rock Limited, he was liable to pay hundreds of thousands of pounds in VAT by November 2015.

He paid £8,433 in March 2016 only “because the heat was coming in” from HMRC in the form of an assessment, Mr Bryant-Heron said.