A friend in need

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Phil Parry is a former BBC news and current affairs reporter. He is winner of the BT Wales award for journalist of the year, BT Wales TV reporter of the year and radio reporter of the year.
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Who is ‘Your friend’?

An extraordinary dirty tricks campaign which has been ignored by the mainstream media, has now moved up a gear with the latest contentious anonymous message being sent to Welsh Assembly Members and the First Minister of Wales (FM), as well as staff at the headline-grabbing university where a top-level investigation is underway into a multi-million pound land deal during which senior officials have been suspended, The Eye can disclose.

The campaign inside Swansea University’s School of Management has been totally ignored by the mainstream media

The internal gmail yesterday from ‘Your friend’ at controversial Swansea University alleges that:  “Swansea university are prepared to dismiss their Vice Chancellor and Vice President for not declaring their interests properly”. The astonishing message claims the investigation has involved huge costs and includes “malice and incompetence”, attaching a confidential email about a declaration of interest from last October by the headline-grabbing Dean of the institution’s School of Management Marc Clement, who is one of those under suspension.

Suspended former Vice-Chancellor of Swansea University Richard Davies and the School of Management Dean Marc Clement – a ‘witch-hunt’?

The note starts ‘Dear Friends’ and also says: “After six months, hundreds of thousands of pounds and the thrashing (trashing?) of your Institution’s reputation, your Magic Circle firm has pulled a dead rabbit out of the hat”.

This, like others in the long-running campaign, has also been sent to the left wing FM Mark Drakeford who is at the centre of a huge storm over his problematic decision to scrap plans for an M4 relief road to the south of Newport, even though the planning inspector had recommended it.  The message has also been sent to members of the media, although we have been alone in reporting it.

It comes from a ‘Vanitas Vanitatum’ address, against a background of unbelievable events at the university where the one-time Vice-Chancellor (VC) Richard Davies, as well as Professor Clement have both been relieved of their duties.

Hilary Lappin-Scott = ‘Your friend’ said she should put her hat back in the ring

An earlier gmail from the same address about a recent award ceremony stated: “… your Registrar (Andrew Rhodes) was shamelessly picking up Prof Richard Davies’s award – clearly he made (Pro Vice-Chancellor [PVC]) Hillary (Lappin-Scott) stay at home”. And added:  “I am sure you will all join me in congratulating him (Professor Clement).

In one of the gmails, ‘Your friend’ has claimed:  Why is this witch hunt … still continuing?” and that there has been “A trial by media, a kangaroo court, a selection of evidence and suspensions before interviews”.

Professors Clement (top middle) and Davies (bottom left) with other members of the’Wellness’ team

The operation at Swansea University is in parallel to an inquiry into the multi-million pound Llanelli ‘Wellness Village’ project. Previous messages have alleged that the former VC has been ‘crucified’ during the investigation.

The stunning crusade at the scandal-hit university also forms a worrying backdrop to our exclusive disclosure that officials had employed a fraudster called Steve Chan who used to work on a contract at the management school, and after we had revealed that a previous Dean there accused of bullying had died. We showed how Chan had even represented the university in advising an international agency on the ways to combat fraud

Steve Chan – why did Swansea University employ a convicted fraudster?

Chan had been imprisoned by a court in Boston for four years and three months, and ordered to pay millions of dollars in compensation. His jail term was followed by three years of supervised release, after he admitted one count of conspiracy to commit fraud and one count of mail fraud, he was also ordered to pay restitution of $12,596,298.

Another gmail from ‘Your friend’ was sent, as before, to the university’s Chair of council and staff, coming from another created address which has also been used in the past, called ‘Lilith Sumerian’. Others have been employed including ‘The iniquities Of the selfish’ and ‘Ivs Titia’.

A senior academic called Alison Jones from an Australian university who was slated to become the new VC at Swansea, turned the job down. An internal gmail in the campaign soon followed. This message from ‘Your friend’ said in part: “To lose one VC is unfortunate, to lose a second before she even starts must (say) something about the priorities and competence of whoever is responsible for such processes. It is time to save your university”.

Paul Boyle was ‘congratulated’ by ‘Your friend’

A volley of anonymous internal messages from ‘Your friend’ followed the news of the appointment of Paul Boyle who is leaving his £285,000 a year job in charge of the University of Leicester to become VC at Swansea University. These gmails were marked from a ‘Themis Titaness’ address and one came in the form of a spoof letter congratulating Professor Boyle on his appointment, but, along with others, sourced from the ‘Vanitas Vanitatum’ address. It said:  “The transformed University which you applied to lead remains there, though is suffering internally and publicly under the weight of such deceit”.

Are there really witch-hunts underway?

Another, highly-libellous, message was also sent to workers, and included criticism of an identifiable individual.  It asked tendentiously:  “When will you explain that a never ending smear investigation is an appropriate use of charity funds? When will you accept the damage to the university will cost jobs?” A past statement to staff using the ‘Iniquities Of the selfish’ address was highly-libellous too, and the only part of this gmail we can reproduce is:  “It is time you step up to your responsibilities and take control of the situation“.

A further one which was sent in the astounding campaign undertaken by ‘Your friend’ at the university alleged that previous messages were “blocked” and that again a “witch hunt” was underway. This one was also addressed to the university’s council members and was headlined “More truth”. It was another which came from a ‘Lilith Sumerian’ address.

‘Your friend’ says Sir Roger Jones should look into it

The scurrilous gmail included attachments like the latest one, and a section of it read:  “Last week’s email was blocked – here it is below for completeness’ sake. Ask yourself: what else is the leadership keeping from you?… Why is this witch hunt therefore still continuing?”.

Another message in the hours afterwards was also addressed to the Chair of the university council Sir Roger Jones, as well as staff, and attached a letter from ‘Your friend’ purportedly raising worries about public procurement. It said:  “Dear friends.  I write with concern … about Public Procurement Regulations”. This gmail was marked ‘Saint Homobonus’ and delivered from the address ‘patron of procurement’.

‘Your friend’ said Hilary Lappin-Scott’s ‘global recognition’ had been ‘negated’

The campaign inside Swansea University which has been completely ignored by the mainstream media, appears to be designed to undermine the incredible inquiry underway and boost the reputations of those who have been suspended, as well as key senior executives such as the antagonistic senior PVC Professor Lappin-Scott (another recipient of the gmails).

Yet The Eye have shown how Professor Lappin-Scott enraged her own workers by sending Tweets from glamorous parts of the world on university ‘business’, and her exploits have become the subject of our satirical writer.

Phil Parry – a ‘troll’?

The anonymous communications have claimed in the past that Professor Lappin-Scott would lead the university to “an era of gold and honey”. In part, one recent gmail to staff as well as the Chair of the Swansea University’s council read:   “Why are these things happening and being leaked to Sion Barry (the Western Mail Business Editor) and, in turn, (our Editor) Phil Parry (someone trolling Professor Hillary {sic} Lappin-Scott) whilst in the middle of an independent internal investigation?”.

Another added:  “Appended below you can find the previous installments (American spelling) and alleges there has been “A trial by media, a kangaroo court, a selection of evidence and suspensions before interviews – almost as if the facts were at odds with the desired outcome”. Although misspelt a further gmail was clear: “Please Hillary (sic) (Lappin-Scott) out (put?) your hat back in the ring!”.

The ‘university’ project in Kuwait – legal action may follow

In one of the internal gmails following disclosures about a Kuwait project which forms part of the investigation along with the ‘Wellness village’, and was headlined ‘destruction of value and relationships’, a further series of unlawful claims against a named individual were made, and among the few lines we can publish is:  “I am confident we should expect retaliation by the Kuwaitis”.

A response from the Kuwait Innovative Group (KIG) was reported afterwards, and following it Swansea University decided not to continue with the project. Further action may ensue. KIG told the university it would take legal action for a full refund of a “sensitive” document’s £600,000 cost. The group claims the document was leaked and is also considering action for loss of potential investment and damage to reputation.

Does ‘Your friend’ know the law?

It is alleged that legal rules may have been flouted, and ‘Your friend’ also appears to be unaware of them because as the gmails he or she has sent were published to a third party they fall within the remit of libel laws. If this person can be found legal action could follow.

University officials have been less keen than ‘Your friend’, though, to give The Eye information – this time about Chan’s background, and we have been told in the past our questions about him in a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request had been refused on the grounds they were “vexatious”.

We were ‘vexatious’ apparently…

Four of the queries we asked in the FOIA were:

  • What was the exact date that Professor Steve Chan of the School of Management registered for his Ph.D at Swansea University? 
  • What was the exact date that he undertook his viva voce examination for his Ph.D? 
  • Who were the members of his Ph.D viva committee (including external examiners)? 
  • Who approved the appointment of the supervisors for his Ph.D?
The misnamed ‘Wellness’ village under investigation

But using documents we have seen we can now disclose that the answer to the first question is October 2012, to the second May 2013, to the third – one is a major academicTherefore according to Swansea University’s own regulations, Chan should not have been allowed to take his viva until at least October 2013.

We were the first to break the news that the mind-boggling suspension of Professor Daviesas well as the key officials at the university, and the amazing investigation launched at the same time, was linked to a massive £200 million regeneration scheme officially called the Delta Lakes (Llanelli Wellness Village) City Deal.

Mark James held a vital role

Swansea’s involvement in the enormous plan in Kuwait is also being examined in the investigation. Senior officers are looking into a ‘joint venture’ in a £600 million proposal for a private medical university and hospital in the middle-eastern state, which aimed to attract 5,000 students. Professors Davies and Clement, were on the proposed academic board for the project and the controversial former Carmarthenshire Council Chief Executive, Mark James, is listed as a trustee.  Another libellous ‘Your friend’ gmail was sent out from a ‘Lady Righteous’ stating:  “The incredible opportunity represented by the Kuwait project has been lost to another country”.

Since the news emerged about Mr James it has been revealed that his role was not listed in the authority’s declaration of interests. It is obvious though the interest of ‘Your friend’ will continue as the investigation into the worrying land deal also goes on.

 

Our Editor Phil Parry’s memories of his extraordinary 35-year award-winning career in journalism as he was gripped by the incurable disabling condition Hereditary Spastic Paraplegia (HSP), have been released in a major new book ‘A GOOD STORY’. Order the book now! The picture doubles as a cut-and-paste poster! 

 

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