SFO investigators were assessing whether Sir Philip broke the law through “fraud by misrepresentation”, which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in jail.
The Serious Fraud Office is understood to be winding down its probe into Sir Philip Green, paving the way for the billionaire to resume the day-to-day running of his business interests.
Sources told The Telegraph it was proving difficult for the SFO to distinguish between sharp practice and illegality in their probe of BHS’s sale and collapse. As such, a formal investigation would be unlikely as they had not found anything illegal, they said.
Sir Philip took the first big step towards repairing his battered reputation last week with a £363m settlement over BHS’s pension scheme. The tycoon wrote a personal cheque in what was the biggest ever payout to the Pensions Regulator, a move that City figures said could save his knighthood.
It comes as the Insolvency Service, considered the biggest threat to Sir Philip’s reputation, also backs down over a formal reprimand of his conduct.
However, it is thought that investigators have now turned their attention to Dominic Chappell, the former bankrupt who bought BHS for £1 and took £7m out of the business.
“As far as my general reading takes me, Sir Philip may be considered an alleged shark by some, but not a fraudster,” said David Corker, a lawyer at Corker Binning who represented former Tesco boss Philip Clarke when he was being investigated by the SFO. Mr Clarke was cleared two years after the SFO launched its probe following the supermarket’s accounting scandal.
Mr Corker said that for Sir Philip, “the question is whether the transfer of assets out of BHS when he was a director was fraudulent or not”.
“If the SFO could prove that there was an intention to defraud suppliers or other BHS stakeholders then it would have a case, but it is very difficult to prove this because he would no doubt have a variety of other reasons for doing so,” he added.
Read the full article in The Telegraph here.
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