Dominic chappell, the businessman who bought failed retailer bhs from multi-millionaire philip green for 1 in 2015, dishonestly chose to evade paying tax on 2.2m of income he received from the deal and instead used it to buy a bentley car and a yacht, a court heard on thursday.
Mr chappell, 53, who led bhs when it collapsed in 2016, is on trial at southwark crown court on three charges of tax evasion relating to him and his company swiss rock. he denies all the charges.
On the opening day of the trial, prosecutor mark bryant-heron qc told the jury that mr chappell had the means to pay his corporation tax, income tax and vat but dishonestly chose not to.
He told the jury that mr chappell would claim in his defence that he was misled by sir philip over the purchase of bhs and was not dishonest but simply too busy to attend to his tax liability.
More specifically, his case is that he was misled by sir philip green at the time that he purchased bhs about 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 sale of bhs took place, mr bryant-heron told the court.
Mr chappells defence case, mr bryant-heron added, would be that had bhs not failed, he would have had the funds to pay his tax liability.
Bhs, which started life as a single store in brixton, south london, nearly 90 years ago and grew into a mainstay of britains high streets, struggled to compete with discount chains and cope with the rise of online shopping.
The jury was told that over a 12-month period starting in march 2015, mr chappell and his company swiss rock received 2.2m in income and consultancy fees from the acquisition and management of bhs paid by retail acquisitions ltd (ral), the corporate entity used to acquire the department store chain.
The prosecution allege this defendant evaded tax, said mr bryant-heron what he did spend his money on? it wasnt tax...tax was the last thing he was going to pay. he used the money to fund his lifestyle no tax was paid.
The jury was shown what prosecutors called a lying and false document put forward by mr chappell to fellow ral directors at the time of the bhs deal suggesting his net worth was 20m. when he was subsequently questioned about the statement by investigators, he suggested that his secretary may have put the decimal point in the wrong place, the court was told.
The day after the bhs deal was completed in march 2015, 300,000 was paid into mr chappells personal bank account, the court heard.
The jury was also presented with details of mr chappells accounts between march 2015 and april 2015, which showed he paid his wife 95,000, spent 90,000 on vehicles and 4,179 on expenses, abroadincluding a ski trip to austria.
Mr bryant-heron told the jury that 500,000 had left his and swiss rocks accounts within the space of a week. the money left really quite quickly, he said.
There was no attempt to reserve money for his tax liability, the prosecutor told the jury.
The court also heard that in late 2015 mr chappell spent money flying to the bahamas, where his yacht was moored, and bought a bentley car as well as some beretta guns.
I am having to slum it in the bahamas for the next three weeks, read an email from mr chappell to a friend that was shown to the court. i know you all feel my pain.
Mr chappell denies three counts of cheating the public revenue relating to corporation tax, vat and income tax between january 2014 and september 2016. the trial continues.