In response to a letter from Frank Field, chair of the Work and Pensions Committee, Sarah Albon, chief executive of the Insolvency Service said, “We have largely completed the information-gathering first phase of the investigation, where we secured company records and made initial contact with directors and third parties to obtain information.”
However, she indicated that the investigation could last another two years.
Albon said, “We are putting all necessary resources into the investigation”.
She added that the Insolvency Service has engaged specialist forensic accountants and senior counsel and acquired specialised IT equipment to deal with the high volume of electronic data.
It is now analysing the company records and evidence gathered and seeking detailed explanations from parties of interest.
“A comprehensive forensic exercise is under way to ensure that any possible disqualification action stands up to the legal process,” Albon said.
However, she added that “the complexities of the case and volume of evidence to be reviewed” means that it is not possible to say when the investigation will be completed.
Albon said she “remains confident that 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”.
Field said he is “pleased to see that the Insolvency Service has raised its game, appointing specialist counsel and forensic accountancy services to analyse the evidence they have gathered on the sale and collapse of BHS".
“This, 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,” he added.
“It seems the net is tightening around the former directors of BHS. We – and of course the Forfeiture Committee – will await the outcome of their investigations with great interest," he said.