Microsoft, Fujitsu and Swann are among the vendors being pursued for a collective £50m by the liquidator of Changtel Solutions, CRN understands.
Changtel, formerly known as Enta Technologies UK Ltd, was liquidated in 2015 following a dispute with HMRC over alleged unpaid VAT. Jason Tsai, whose family once controlled Changtel, was recently banned from being a company director for 13 years.
Changtel's sole creditor is HMRC.
But CRN has learned that Begbies is now pursuing some of the other parties that traded with Changtel in the lead-up to its liquidation in a similar manner.
Begbies is trying to claw back any payments made by Changtel between when it was presented with a winding-up petition on 7 June 2013, and the date of the winding-up order, on 28 January 2015, asserting that they are void.
According to sources, Microsoft, Fujitsu and Swann are among Begbies' top targets because they received payments in the region of £11m, £6m and nearly £2m from Changtel in the period in question. Mad Catz, a gaming hardware vendor which recently ceased trading, apparently received in the region of £600,000.
The collective tab stands at over £50m, CRN understands.
Changtel went into liquidation owing HMRC at least £42m, according to a progress report from the liquidator filed last August.
A letter dated August 2016 sent by Begbies to one of the vendors involved, which has been seen by CRN, requests that the sums they received during this period be paid back in full if validation orders were not obtained for them. This is in accordance with S.127 of the Insolvency Act 1986, Begbies stated.
This information has come to light in the wake of the demise of Entatech, which has no ownership or management ties with Changtel/Enta Technologies. Entatech opened its books to a wide variety of potential suitors during an extensive marketing process last month.
Entatech also wrote to its vendors after Begbies made contact with the firm.
The letter, seen by CRN, stated: "The directors of Entatech have recently learned that the liquidator has chosen to pursue several other parties who traded with Changtel post winding-up petition date, in the same manner as they pursued Entatech."
A case to argue
Current insolvency laws are designed to protect any dispersal of assets in the period between the presentation of a winding-up petition and the formal liquidation.
However, credit management consultant Eddie Pacey said he felt that the vendors Begbies is pursuing "have a case to argue" against the claim, unless they received payment for goods not supplied.
"Cash trading post winding-up petition is not technically disposal of assets as goods to the value of monies paid are received," he said. "It is, however, unwise to trade with any business that is subject to a winding-up notice."
Entatech was dragged into the saga because it had historical transactions with Changtel itself until the summer of 2014.
The distributor initially contested that the transactions were void, and was preparing a legal case for a retrospective validation order (RVO). However, it decided to drop this in order to avoid a costly legal battle, and reached an early settlement with the liquidator. It still has about £400,000 left to pay.
CRN is aware that at least one vendor has sought legal counsel on the matter. It may prove more difficult for them to pursue the route of an RVO than Entatech, however, due to a change in case laws last summer, one onlooker remarked.
Any money recouped by the liquidator will go back into the pot for Changtel's creditors.
Entatech managing director Dave Stevinson would not confirm the information, but did admit the issue had affected his firm's trading and hampered the sale process. Efforts to sell Entatech as a solvent business failed, and the firm entered administration on Monday after a last-ditch pre-pack deal with Beta fell through.
Begbies, Microsoft and Fujitsu declined to comment. Swann had not responded to our request for comment at the time of publication.
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