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BHS investigation to finish by 2019

Insolvency Service chief executive Sarah Albon has said the investigation into BHS may not be completed until 2019 because of the “complexities of the case” and the amount of evidence to be reviewed.

In a letter to Frank Field, chair of the work and pensions select committee, Albon said she had appointed senior counsel and had sought specialist forensic accountancy advice “to ensure that any possible disqualification action stands up to the legal process”.

She added that the information-gathering part of the investigation is now complete and the Insolvency Service is analysing the evidence.

Albon said she could not give a definitive date for when the inquiry would finish but added: “Should our investigation find grounds for disqualification action against former directors we will be in a position to commence proceedings significantly earlier than April 2019.”

In response Field said he was pleased the Insolvency Service had “raised its game”: “Appointing specialist counsel and forensic accountancy services to analyse the evidence they have gathered on the sale and collapse of BHS, and the fact that they have set down a timetable for commencement of any potential proceedings, are clear signs of how seriously they are now taking this matter.

“It seems the net is tightening around the former directors of BHS. We – and of course the [Honours] Forfeiture Committee – will await the outcome of their investigations with great interest.”

Meanwhile liquidators are conducting a separate examination of the conduct of former BHS directors.

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