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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 me?’

It is notable that the disgraced former Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson and ‘Your friend’ undertaking a remarkable anonymous gmail campaign at controversial Swansea University deploy similar words.

Both say the inquiries in which they are caught up are a ‘witch-hunt’ and (mixing their metaphors) both describe proceedings as a ‘kangaroo court’.

Who is ‘Your friend’?

In the hours after Mr Williamson’s sacking yet another extraordinary anonymous gmail was sent in the astonishing long-running dirty tricks campaign to the Welsh First Minister, Chancellor and staff at the contentious university where senior officials, including the one-time Vice-Chancellor (VC) Richard Davies, have been suspended during a top-level inquiry. Once more the libellous message was sent from the invented address ‘Vanitas Vanitatum’ about an awards ceremony.

‘Your friend’ said Andrew Rhodes was ‘shameless’

It said:  “… 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 (another suspended official, the Dean of Swansea University’s School of Management Marc Clement).

The former Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson has claimed that the inquiry which led to his sacking had been “a witch-hunt from the start” and “a kangaroo court with a summary execution”. In an earlier gmail, ‘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”.

Suspended former Vice-Chancellor of Swansea University Richard Davies and the School of Management Dean Marc Clement are under investigation

The internal campaign at Swansea University is set against a disturbing background as the VC was suspended, before announcing his retirement, Professor Clement, as well as three others have also been relieved of their duties, as inquiries continue into the multi-million pound Llanelli ‘Wellness Village’ project. Previous gmails have alleged that the VC has been crucified during the investigation.

Chan was imprisoned by Boston law courts for more than four years and ordered to pay millions of dollars in restitution

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

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.

A Freedom of Information request about convicted fraudster Chan was refused

One gmail from ‘Your friend’ was sent, as before, to the university’s Chair of council and staff, coming from another created address which has been used in the past, called ‘Lilith Sumerian’. Others have also 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”.

Alison Jones did not want the job

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 the ones from the ‘Vanitas Vanitatum’ address, it had also been sent to the Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford. It said:  “The transformed University which you applied to lead remains there, though is suffering internally and publicly under the weight of such deceit”.

Paul Boyle was ‘congratulated’ by ‘Your friend’

Another, highly-libellous, message was also sent to workers, and included criticism of an identifiable individual.  It asked:  “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“.

Has there really been a witch-hunt?

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.

The scurrilous gmail included attachments 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?”.

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

Another message in the hours afterwards was like the most recent ones, 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’.

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

But the campaign inside Swansea University has been totally ignored by the mainstream media, and has been conducted ever since the incredible investigation was launched. The underhand fight appears to be designed to undermine the inquiry 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.

Hilary Lappin-Scott – an ‘era of gold and honey’?

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?”.

Is it a ‘kangaroo court’ as said by Gavin Williamson and ‘Your friend’ in the anonymous gmail campaign?

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 misnamed ‘Wellness’ village under investigation

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”.

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

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

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 an academic called Andrew ParkerTherefore 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 unbelievable suspension of Professor Daviesas well as the 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.

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 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 continues.

Will he also believe it is a ‘witch-hunt’ and he has been tried in a ‘kangaroo court’?

 

Also on The Eye – the real ramifications of the sacking of Gavin Williamson.

 

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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