Money was siphoned off from Unwins stores and placed in separate bank accounts, the collapsed chain’s administrators say.

Accountancy firm KPMG has confirmed it is preparing legal action against Devereux Montague, the chain’s former private equity owner, connected with the fact that Unwins’ warehouses were almost empty when it went into administration.

A group of five creditors is meeting regularly with KPMG, as part of the administration of the chain, which dramatically collapased before Christmas 2005 amidst bitter recriminations and the loss of hundreds of jobs.

More than £30m is owed to around 1000 creditors, which include staff who are owed some £810,000, some of which will be paid by government redundancy funds.

A spokesman for KPMG told decanter.comthere should also be an investigation into the fact that before the collapse, unspecified sums of money from Unwins stores was banked into non-Unwins bank accounts.

‘Managers at the stores, directed by head office’, were banking the money, the spokesman said. He would not give any indication as to the size of the sums involved, but he said it was likely the situation would be investigated.

He was also not prepared to say whether it would be the subject of a criminal investigation.

DM chairman Phillip Cook has strongly denied anything underhand has taken place, Off Licence News reports.

Meanwhile, HBOS (Halifax Bank of Scotland), as a secured creditor, has been paid £4.5m out of a debt of £5.3m. Revenue and Customs is owned £10m, none of which has been repaid.

It is unlikely that the majority of creditors will see any of their debts paid off. In pure financial terms, the spokesman said, ‘none will be satisfied.’

Written by Adam Lechmere