It is extraordinary how people who have been sacked from their senior positions when the police are continuing to investigate a mammoth alleged fraud they are at the centre of which involves bribery, appear to want to deflect attention from what is happening.
The former Vice-Chancellor at controversial Swansea University Richard Davies says the accusations against him in a questionable multi-million pound land deal are “groundless”.
Yet, along with his one time employee, Marc Clement of the university’s School of Management, he has been sacked for “gross misconduct” in a scandal first revealed by The Eye.
It has now emerged that properties in Swansea, Carmarthenshire and Kent have been searched as part of the huge continuing investigation.
South Wales Police said the regional crime unit executed “a number of warrants as part of an investigation into alleged bribery offences.
“Seven addresses in Swansea, Carmarthenshire, and Kent are being searched with the assistance of colleagues”
The searches have involved officers from South Wales, Dyfed Powys and Kent Police forces.
They follow a complaint from Swansea University to the Serious Fraud Office in late 2018 which was referred to the police.
Last week, the university sacked Professors Davies and Clement, with immediate effect.
They were dismissed by an independent disciplinary panel, following an in-depth examination of the facts carried out by an employment law QC.
The pair were suspended last November along with two other members of staff in the contentious management school.
The investigation is being carried out as an astonishing and highly defamatory internal computer campaign by someone calling him or herself ‘Your friend’, was launched to undermine it, which has been only partly covered by the mainstream media.
Part of one of the libellous message from ‘Your friend’ stated: “As your Institution’s suspensions farce continues through its eight(h) month, you may wish to reflect on the person responsible for it and the standard of professional conduct (he) deem(s) appropriate”.
It included an official UK Government document naming Andrew Rhodes, the Registrar and Chief Operating Officer at Swansea, adding tendentiously: “Properly declaring interest to your employer and following the rules are important things; pity not everybody manages to do this”.
A senior police source told The Eye exclusively: “We will be looking closely at this to see whether any laws have been broken”.
After the included UK Government document, the message continued: “If you hold him (Mr Rhodes) to the same standard, now is the time for the ready-made Deputy Vice-Chancellor/Registrar, Professor Steve Wilkes, to support your new Vice Chancellor (VC) to deliver once again an era of unimaginable gold and honey, interrupted following the appointment of your current Registrar.
“Only this can stop the exodus involving (Pro Vice-Chancellor [PVC]) Professor Hillary Lappin-Scott and your Director of Finance (who are leaving or have left) – or, has the latter been deported?
“P.S.: By now, the scales must fall from your eyes that suggestions of the police used as a tool to scare you from seeking the truth is purely a tactic to keep your scrutiny at a distance. It is for You to ensure that justice is done.”
The phrase ‘gold and honey’ has been used before during the anonymous campaign at Swansea University – in reference to support for the controversial Professor Lappin-Scott, mentioned by ‘Your friend’, who we first revealed has announced that she is leaving the troubled institution, and in a note to staff admitted that it had been a “challenging” time.
This, along with the departure of the Finance Director, is the ‘exodus’ described in the anonymous campaign.
The operation at Swansea University is in parallel to the inquiry into the multi-million pound Llanelli ‘Wellness Village’ land deal, and previous messages have alleged that Professor Davies has been ‘crucified’ during the investigation.
Another recent internal computer gmail to workers at Swansea, senior politicians and journalists during it asked sarcastically: “Will there be a new rebuttal by Swansea University’s expanding PR team, now made up of xxxx, Sion Barry (the Western Mail Business Editor and our own Editor) Phil Parry, or have they referred this matter to MI5 and (convicted fraudster) Steve Chan?”.
One of the latest messages in the remarkable campaign, also came from the invented gmail address Vanitas Vanitatum, and ‘told’ staff: “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”.
It claimed the investigation had involved huge costs and included “malice and incompetence”.
A further gmail was sent, like the others, to the university’s Chair of council Sir Roger Jones and staff as well as the senior politicians and journalists, coming from a different created address which has also been used in the past, called ‘Lilith Sumerian’.
Others have also been employed including ‘The iniquities Of the selfish’ and ‘Ivs Titia’.
As with events at other universities in Wales, all of these gmails as well as the anonymous campaign itself, have been largely ignored by the mainstream media even though some of the messages have been sent directly to reporters.
An earlier gmail from the ‘Vanitas Vanitatum’ address about a recent award ceremony was also libellous, as well as being misspelt, and stated: “… your Registrar (Andrew Rhodes) was shamelessly picking up Prof Richard Davies’s (the dismissed one time VC) award – clearly he made (former PVC) Hillary (Lappin-Scott) stay at home” and stated: “I am sure you will all join me in congratulating him (sacked ex-Dean of School of Management, Marc Clement).
In one of the messages, ‘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”.
The Eye have also been alone in reporting the first official response to the campaign from Swansea’s ‘Associate Director Vice-Chancellor’s Office, Head of Legal and Compliance Services’ stating: “The matters under investigation are very serious. The University has invested a significant amount of resource investigating the alleged misconduct, as have the authorities. It is essential that nothing is done to undermine the on-going processes. They must be allowed to run their course without interference.”
Before the campaign, The Eye showed how the institution had employed a convicted fraudster called Steve Chan who used to work on a contract at the management school, and began after we had exclusively revealed that a previous Dean there accused of bullying had died.
We disclosed how Chan had been imprisoned for four years and three months, and ordered to pay millions of dollars in compensation.
His jail term imposed at Boston law courts 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.
We revealed that Chan had even represented the university in advising an international agency on the ways to combat fraud.
Yet none of this has been covered by the mainstream media in Wales.
But university officials have been less keen than the anonymous campaigner 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 legal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request had been refused on the grounds they were “vexatious”.
This could be seen as a way of trying to thwart our investigations at the university – like saying the police ones into alleged bribery in a multi-million pound land deal are “groundless”.
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!