The Guardian reports:
The business secretary, Vince Cable, has ordered an inquiry into the collapse of high street electricals chain Comet after the government was left with a £50m bill in unpaid taxes and redundancy costs.
The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) confirmed that the Insolvency Service had begun a “fact-finding” investigation into the high street chain’s failure: “The purpose of the inquiry is to investigate the circumstances surrounding its insolvency and establish whether further action is required,” said a spokeswoman.
Cable has discretion to demand an investigation “where it is in the public interest to do so”. The inquiry is being conducted under section 447 of the Companies Act which can be a precursor to a more in-depth probe – as was eventually commissioned in the case of serious corporate scandals such as MG Rover.
There were 150 such fact-finding investigations last year and their existence usually remains confidential. Investigators are allowed to demand documents, enter offices and speak to any individuals considered to have relevant information. The matter may rest there, but in the that event wrongdoing is uncovered the Service can seek to have directors disqualified or, if they believe there is evidence of criminal behaviour, pass a file to the police or the Serious Fraud Office.
“We are not in a position to comment further at this stage,” added the BIS spokeswoman. “To do so could prejudice the outcome of the investigation and any future action.”
* Nick Thornsby is Thursday Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs here.