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Documents seen by The Eye reveal answers to some of our requests for information about a crook employed by a controversial Welsh university where senior executives have been suspended, a top-level investigation is underway into a multi-million pound land deal, and a dirty tricks campaign exposed exclusively by us is being conducted.
Swansea University is at the centre of a major investigation into the huge land deal but our journalists were denied details officially through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) inquiry about former convict Steve Chan, who was employed in the institution’s contentious School of Management, because officials claimed our questions were “vexatious”.
Four of the questions 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 answer to the first question is October 2012, to the second May 2013, to the third – one is Andy Parker of Cambridge University.
Therefore according to Swansea University’s own regulations, Chan should not have been allowed to take his viva until at least October 2013.
We have been alone in publicising revelations about Chan, who had been jailed for many years in the USA after a massive fraud yet was employed by Swansea on a contract, before moving on to another company, and went to live with his mother in Poughkeepsie, New York.
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.
On March 1 2016 Chan appeared as a panellist representing Swansea University at a St. David’s Day event in Brussels called Digital Destination: Creating Value and Improving Lives.
The publicity for it declared: “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”.
The appointment of a new Vice-Chancellor (VC) is about to be formally announced – the job has been offered to Alison Jones from Wollongong University in Australia.
Professor Jones’ suspended predecessor, Richard Davies, the Dean of his management school which has hit the headlines, Marc Clement, as well as two other executives are all being investigated.
It emerged at the same time, that the chair of the governing body at the university, Sir Roger Jones, has resigned from his senior role with a company where Professor Clement was a co-director, although a spokeswoman at the institution stressed that this was “wholly unconnected” with the top-level inquiry.
Journalists on The Eye were the first to break the news that the unparalleled suspension of Professor Davies at Swansea as well as his senior officials, and the remarkable investigation launched at the same time, was linked to a £200 million regeneration scheme called the Delta Lakes (Llanelli Wellness Village) City Deal.
The anonymous email campaign at the university which followed the investigation, has been totally ignored by the mainstream media, but we have disclosed how it was being used as top officials jockeyed for position to take over, and distance themselves from what had happened.
The campaign appears to support Professor Davies, as well as the Pro Vice-Chancellor (PVC) at Swansea Hilary Lappin-Scott.
Emails marked ‘Your friend’ have been sent to Sir Roger as well as members of staff at the university.
One of them came in the form of a spoof letter ‘congratulating’ Professor Lappin-Scott an an alleged appointment.
It included earlier messages, and in full stated: “Dear Hillary (sic), Congratulations on the appointment. Please, tweet your success and update your Wikipedia page. Your Registrar can advise on that..(libel)..Your friend P.S.: I hope you will appoint Phil Parry as Director of Communications. That will be one in “the eye” for her friends in the East!”.
It 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”.
Another said Professor Lappin-Scott could lead the institution to “an era of gold and honey”.
Professor Davies has also been supported by ‘Your friend’ in one of the emails using an address marked ‘Isvtitia’.
Workers at Swansea were ‘informed’: “P.S.: I remind you of the plea for Professor Richard B Davies’reinstatement in time for the Graduation Ceremony – do not forget to vote (it is completely anonymous!)”.
Apart from the ‘Wellness’ village, the university’s involvement in another enormous plan – this time overseas – is also part of the investigation.
Officials are examining a ‘joint venture’ in a £600 million proposal for a private medical university and hospital in Kuwait, which aimed to attract 5,000 students. Professors Clement and Davies were on the proposed academic board for the project and the controversial Carmarthenshire council Chief Executive, Mark James, is listed as a trustee.
But anonymous comments to staff at Swansea from ‘Your friend’ soon followed the disturbing revelation.
In one headlined ‘destruction of value and relationships’ a series of unlawful claims against a named individual were made in the email, and among the few lines we can publish is: “I am confident we should expect retaliation by the Kuwaitis”.
Evidently he or she is unaware of legal rules because as these emails have been published to a third party they fall within the remit of libel laws.
If this person can be identified, then legal action could follow.
Yet the internal messages at Swansea, although intriguing, are not part of the inquiry, despite the fact they have named a central figure in the ‘Wellness’ village scheme.
In another, ‘Your friend’ stated: “One of Swansea University Council’s members is expressing their concerns to me.
“Breach of commercial confidentiality (like the one conducted in the leak to the Wales Online of the Kuwaiti report) is a very serious issue.”
These events are also very serious and it seems a shame we have had to secure our own information about a crook Swansea employed after we were branded ‘vexatious’.
Our Editor Phil Parry’s memories of his 35-year award-winning career in journalism as he was gripped by the incurable disabling condition Hereditary Spastic Paraplegia (HSP), will soon be released in a major new book ‘A Good Story’. Pre-order the book now!
Tomorrow – fresh alarming revelations about the libellous dirty tricks campaign underway at Swansea University, in scurrilous emails sent to staff.