The Eye can exclusively reveal that a former senior executive at a controversial Welsh university who was sacked for “gross misconduct” is, with others, at the centre of a major police inquiry into alleged bribery in a multi-million pound land deal.
Steve Poole was first suspended then dismissed from the Swansea University School of Management, where he worked under the contentious ex-Dean Marc Clement who was also fired from his job for the same reason.
Mr Poole’s LinkedIn profile still states that he is: “Head of Innovation, Business & Commercial Development at School of Management, Swansea University” despite the fact that he has been sacked.
They were both involved in the headline-grabbing Llanelli ‘Wellness’ village land deal under investigation which was the cornerstone of the £1.3 billion Swansea Bay City project.
A report in March into governance procedures with the Swansea Bay City deal, was utterly scathing. It stated: “Risk management arrangements require improvement. Risks are not clearly articulated to describe the event, consequence and impact. There is no consistent risk management methodology used across the Partnership”.
Professors Clement and Richard Davies (ex-Vice-Chancellor of Swansea University) were, like Mr Poole, first suspended then dismissed from their senior positions for “gross misconduct”.
The ‘Wellness’ village land deal had laudable aims – to improve the health and wellbeing of people across the area, as well as creating 2,000 high-quality jobs and boosting the economy by £467 million over 15 years, and has been described by its backers as the “largest ever regeneration project in South West Wales”.
But we have disclosed the names of others who have been linked to this enormous scheme who are also now at the heart of a police investigation into alleged bribery. One of those is the controversial former Chief Executive of Carmarthenshire County Council, Mark James.
Anthony Barrett, the Assistant Auditor General for Wales and Appointed Auditor of Carmarthenshire County Council, issued a public interest report saying the authority had acted ‘unlawfully’ in indemnifying Mr James’ libel counter claim against the outraged blogger Jacqui Thompson. In January 2014 he stated: “…it (the authority) was not authorised by statute..”.
But it appears negative headlines have continued to dog him and the others.
In the top-level inquiry now underway, South Wales Police have said the regional crime unit executed “a number of warrants as part of an investigation into alleged bribery offences”. The searches were carried out by the Regional Organised Crime Unit Tarian and involved officers from South Wales, Dyfed Powys and Kent Police forces. They followed a complaint from Swansea University to the Serious Fraud Office in late 2018 which was referred to the police.
A spokesperson said after the raids: “A number of documents and electronic equipment have been seized, which will now be subject to extensive examination. No arrests have been made, and the complex investigation remains ongoing.”
In a statement Swansea University has said: “Following the dismissal of Professor Richard Davies from his position as vice chancellor and Professor Marc Clement from his position as dean of the School of Management and executive chair of the Institute of Life Sciences, for gross misconduct, with immediate effect, a third member of staff, Steve Poole, has now been dismissed from his position as head of innovation, commercial and business, School of Management, for gross misconduct, with immediate effect”.
Yet this is not the first time that the university has been at the centre of extraordinary events.
The university’s management school employed on a contract, criminal Steve Chan. Our journalists have shown that Chan was jailed for years in America after a massive fraud.
He had been imprisoned by a court in Boston for four years and three months, and ordered to pay millions of dollars in compensation. Chan’s 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.
But on March 1 2016 he had appeared as a panellist representing Swansea University at a St. David’s Day event in Brussels called ‘Digital Destination: Creating Value and Improving Lives’.
In the publicity before the conference, the disgraced executive, the one time Vice-Chancellor of Swansea University, Professor Davies, said: “The event in Brussels on St David’s Day emphasises both the importance of the agenda in the European context and the role played by Professor Steve Chan in this key sector”.
The promotion adds: “Swansea University is delighted that Professor Steve Chan will take a leadership role in driving the Big Data agenda forward for Swansea University’s School of Management.
“Professor Steve Chan is the Chair of the Cyber Analytics and Network/Relationship Science Centre at Swansea University and the Chair of Smarter Cities for a Safer Planet and the Internet of Things at Swansea University’s School of Management”.
Yet we were told by Swansea University our questions about Chan in a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request had been refused on the grounds they were “vexatious”.
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?
But the scandalous management school where Chan worked has made the news for other reasons too.
The former Dean, Nigel Piercy, left under a cloud after two turbulent years in charge, and contrary to convention, his death (which we also first revealed) was not marked in traditional fashion by Swansea. Professor Piercy quit after relentless pressure from The Eye, when he clashed repeatedly with staff, warned them the school was “not a rest home for refugees from the 1960s with their ponytails and tie-dyed T-shirts”, and described trade unionists as “unpleasant and grubby little people…usually distinguished only by their sad haircuts, grubby, chewed fingernails and failed careers”.
Perhaps Professor Piercy might also have included Mr Poole in his list of those who have had ‘failed careers’.
Tomorrow – we exclusively reveal the name of Mr Poole’s colleague who is also in a police investigation for alleged bribery,
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