The designer of the Duchess of Sussex’s engagement dress says she is the victim of sexism after her company was reported to fraud investigators.
Tamara Ralph, 39, insisted that she was not responsible for financial mismanagement of her company and said she had been subjected to a smear campaign “aimed at destroying my name and my career”.
Administrators for Ralph & Russo have contacted the Serious Fraud Office about concerns including alleged withdrawals from the company’s pension pot before its collapse. The Pensions Regulator is understood to be examining the retirement scheme.
Ralph is best known for the £56,000 dress the future duchess wore in the photograph announcing her engagement to Prince Harry in December 2017. Her company was founded in 2010 and clients included Angelina Jolie, Gwyneth Paltrow and Beyoncé.
The label went into administration in March with debts of £23 million.
Ralph and Michael Russo, 40, her co-founder, are accused of spending millions “on personal expenses” that had “no business justification” and simply funded their “lavish lifestyles”.
Court documents claim Ralph spent company money on “expenses related to her pets” — believed to be related to her chow-chow called Beluga which was photographed with the designer on private jets. The Mail on Sunday reported that former employees said Ralph acquired Beluga after starting a relationship with Bhanu Choudhrie, 43, a billionaire financier and Liberal Democrat donor.
Administrators told the High Court that Ralph “extracted substantial sums” after raising about £60 million in investment. They are suing her for nearly £21 million.
Ralph said yesterday that she had received messages of support from clients and “will fight to clear my name with every breath in my body. The latest attacks on me are demonstrably false claims which are designed to discredit me and stop me speaking out about what really happened.”
Ralph said as creative director she had repeatedly raised concerns about financial management but was “met with abuse and contempt. I did everything in my power to save the company but was hindered at every turn by bullying and intimidation — sadly, these are tactics which will be recognised by many women in the workplace.
“This campaign to tarnish my name continues to this day. I am shocked that I am being targeted and held responsible for financial mismanagement that was none of my doing, including allegations about pension payments.”
The Pensions Regulator said it did not comment on “individual schemes or employers”.
The administrators said they were conducting a “detailed forensic investigation to identify the circumstances in which approximately £60 million of investor funds have been appropriated in the period 2018-2020 during which Ms Ralph was in de facto control.” They have submitted preliminary findings to the Serious Fraud Office, Pensions Regulator and the Insolvency Service.
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