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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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Just six months legal fees…

Internal documents secured by The Eye show that thousands of pounds in legal fees have been spent in a controversial South Wales land deal under examination by police in an alleged bribery investigation during which properties of high-ranking individuals have been raided, and failure was admitted in a Freedom of Information Act (FoIA) request which sought truthful answers.

The misnamed ‘Wellness’ village under investigation

The high level of charges for legal work, have been revealed in invoices we have seen for the huge £250 million pound Llanelli ‘Wellness’ village project.

Key figures connected with the scheme are, with others, at the heart of the police investigation.

Several senior officials have been relieved of their duties at contentious Swansea University. 

Professor Richard Davies (bottom left) with other members of the ‘Wellness’ team

Among them, Richard Davies formerly the university’s Vice-Chancellor (VC) and the Dean of his School of Management Marc Clement were dismissed for “gross misconduct” and the police investigation continues.

In the inquiry that is 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”.

Their searches were carried out by the Regional Organised Crime Unit Tarian and involved officers from South Wales, Dyfed Powys as well as Kent Police forces, and followed a complaint from Swansea University to the Serious Fraud Office in late 2018 which was referred to the police.

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

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”.

The ‘Wellness’ village scheme 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. It had been described by its backers as the “largest ever regeneration project in South West Wales”.

The police have raided properties around Wales and England in the investigation

But it has been beset by controversy from the start.

The Eye have been alone in naming the top-level executives whose homes and offices have been raided.

Now it has emerged that thousands of pounds had been racked up in legal fees even before the raids, and a blogger monitoring Carmarthenshire Council (whose controversial former Chief Executive was involved) was told in the FOIA: “M(a)y I first of all begin by apologizing for the failure of the Council to respond to your request within the statutory timescales”.

There then follows limited answers with much of the detail redacted.

Your friend
The anonymous campaign at Swansea University has also targeted our Editor

The police alleged bribery probe, the raiding of homes and sackings of senior university officials, constitute one of the biggest stories in Wales but has been only partly covered by the mainstream media.

Meanwhile also only partly covered has been an extraordinary and highly-libellous anonymous computer campaign by someone calling him or herself ‘Your friend’, which has supported the alarming project and condemned the examination of questionable facts, by sending messages to university staff, senior Welsh politicians and journalists.

Is it a ‘kangaroo court’ AND a ‘witch hunt’ as said in the anonymous computer campaign by ‘Your friend’?

In one angry gmail from ‘Your friend’ our Editor Phil Parry was named (wrongly) as being against the contentious scheme.

A further gmail which was sent in the unbelievable dirty tricks operation claimed that previous messages were “blocked”, and alleged that a “witch hunt” was underway.

This one was also addressed to the university’s council members and was headlined “More truth” – like others it had also come from a ‘Lilith Sumerian’ address.

Our Editor Phil Parry was named by ‘Your friend’ as being against the land deal

In part, one recent gmail to staff as well as the Chair of the Swansea University 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 former Pro Vice-Chancellor {PVC}) whilst in the middle of an independent internal investigation?”.

Another added:  “Appended below you can find the previous installments (American spelling) and claims 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 again misspelt a further gmail was clear in the search at the time for a new VC: “Please Hillary (sic) (Lappin-Scott) out (put?) your hat back in the ring!”.

A disturbing scheme in Kuwait is also being looked into.

‘Your friend’ said former Pro Vice-Chancellor (PVC) Hilary Lappin-Scott’s ‘global recognition’ had been ‘negated’

In one of the internal gmails which was headlined ‘destruction of value and relationships’, a 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 and further action may follow.

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

KIG told the university it would take legal steps 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.

There are connections too to a leading Welsh thinktank named after a celebrated former First Minister of Wales.

Helen Mary Jones – ‘no due process in Swansea University probe’

Senior executives at the Morgan Academy which says it addresses the “wicked issues” of public policy in Wales, are based at Swansea University’s headline-grabbing School of Management formerly led by Professor Clement.

The Welsh Assembly Member Helen Mary Jones headed up the academy in the past and has recently said there had been “no due process” in the inquiry running alongside the police investigation which has resulted in the dismissals of Professor Clement and others from the school.

A police inquiry is underway with Swansea University’s School of Management at its heart

Yet Swansea University itself has been no stranger to bad headlines either.

We have been alone in exposing how a convicted fraudster was given a job at the university.

The School of Management at the troubled institution employed on a contract, criminal Steve Chan.

This came despite the fact that our journalists have shown Chan was jailed for years in America after a massive fraud.

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

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 former Vice-Chancellor of Swansea University, who with other senior executives has also been sacked for “gross misconduct”, 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”.

We were ‘vexatious’ apparently

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 another FOIA request had been refused on the grounds they were “vexatious”.

But requests for information are bound to continue trying to shed light on what is happening, as the police alleged bribery investigation culminates and controversy grows about the amount of public money which has been spent.

 

Book posterOur Editor Phil Parry’s memories of his extraordinary 36-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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