Hinchliffe asks for more time to gather evidence

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The Independent Online
Stephen Hinchliffe, the former head of the collapsed Facia retail group, has asked for more time to prepare his defence against the DTI's application to disqualify him from acting as a director.

The original deadline was set for yesterday. However, Mr Hinchliffe requested an extension, given the amount of documentation involved. A fresh deadline of 20 December has been set. This means the case is unlikely to come before the courts until summer or autumn of next year. In the meantime Mr Hinchliffe and Mr Harrison, the former Facia finance director who is also cited in the DTI's application, are free to hold positions as company directors.

Mr Hinchliffe is still being represented by solicitors Hammond Suddards. However, it is understood that Mr Harrison has not retained the services of Eversheds. It is thought he may plan to represent himself and possibly apply for legal aid.

The DTI action relates to the involvement of Mr Hinchliffe and Mr Harrison in Boxgrey, a company which collapsed into liquidation with debts of pounds 5m in 1994. Boxgrey was the re-named company of En-tout-cas, a tennis court manufacturer.

Once the two men have handed over their evidence, the DTI will probably have until next spring to review the material. A date for hearing the final application will then be set. Mr Hinchliffe is also the subject of a Serious Fraud Office investigation relating to the collapse of Facia, his retail empire which was placed in receivership in June. Mr Hinchliffe and Mr Harrison are also being sued for pounds 5m plus interest by Facia's administrators, Price Waterhouse, over the collapse of the group. They are accused of breaching their fiduciary duties by ordering or permitting Facia Footwear to make unjustifiable payments.

KPMG, which is acting as receivers to most of the collapsed Facia subsidiaries, is still seeking several of the company's former car fleet. Though most of the 100-strong fleet has been located, several luxury models are still missing. Ownership is understood to have been transferred out of Facia to other companies not affected by the receivership.

Mr Hinchliffe and Mr Harrison both plan to "vigorously" defend the DTI's disqualification application which could see them banned from acting as company directors for a minimum of five years.

Mr Hinchliffe claims he sold Boxgrey a month before it collapsed and was not responsible for placing it in liquidation.

The Sheffield entrepreneur has also recently sold his 10 per cent stake in Sheffield United football club. The club is in the process of being sold to Conrad, the leisure group.