Despite being convicted of tax fraud and with his company ditching a planned site in South Wales, the founder of a car battery firm now claims he will build a multi billion Euro factory in Italy, it has emerged.
Lars Carlstrom’s new company Italvolt Spa (IS) says it is planning to build a 70 GWh (GigaWatt hour) manufacturing facility for Electric Vehicle (EV) batteries at a soon-to-be-revealed location in the country.
Yet last year his then company Britishvolt (BV) pulled out of a huge planned site for a battery plant in the Vale of Glamorgan, and he had earlier been convicted of tax fraud in Sweden.
In 2011 it had also come to light that Mr Carlstrom had at one time been the “representative in Sweden“ of a man who had also been convicted of fraud.
Yet he apparently remains confident of the new initiative in Italy, declaring: “With its gigafactory, Italvolt wants to give an important response to the historic opportunity of green industrialization, which is involving all production sectors across the board, with a socio-economic impact that will represent a turning point for the global economy”.
But clearly past events have been a ‘turning point’ for Mr Carlstrom as well. He had stepped down from BV in December, and Chief Strategy Officer Isobel Sheldon said the company was severing all ties with him.
He had been sentenced to eight months in prison and handed a four-year trading ban in the late 1990s in Sweden, but it was later reduced to a conditional sentence and 60 hours community service.
He was also later accused of acting negligently by Sweden’s tax authority over a separate unpaid tax bill for one of his companies in 2011. Mr Carlstrom said when he left BV: “I don’t wish to become a distraction”.
As the website North East Bylines (NEB) put it: “He was the same individual whose track record had been queried by The Eye when reviewing the proposed location in Wales in July last year, and who seems still to be a major shareholder”.
Mr Carlstrom’s company at the time, BV, had chosen a site near St Athan, then stunned officials and politicians by saying that the factory would instead be built in Blyth, Northumberland. Neil Moore, leader of Vale of Glamorgan council, said: “They were given a better deal elsewhere. I was surprised when they pulled out”.
BV had apparently acquired the Blyth site over the Welsh alternative because of better connections to renewable power sources such as windfarms in the North Sea, as well as an interconnector to Norway’s hydroelectric power – with timing difficulties in Wales also a factor.
At the time of the St Athan announcement, we had been alone in disclosing that Mr Carlstrom possessed links to Vladimir Antonov, a former football club owner who was jailed for fraud, and another key director of BV had, until recently, lived in a small flat in a Cardiff terraced house. Our research could find no record of any director having a background in battery manufacturing.
The Vale of Glamorgan venture, though, was met with wild acclaim in the mainstream media and by senior politicians, when it emerged.
BBC Cymru Wales (BBC CW) proclaimed: “The firm behind a proposed battery factory which could create 4,000 jobs has listed a site in Wales as its ‘preferred option’”.
The website WalesOnline stated: “Plans for a giant factory and thousands of jobs for the Vale of Glamorgan have been revealed. Battery manufacturer Britishvolt announced … that two sites are in the running for their factory, with Bro Tathan business park (near St Athan) leading the way.”
In July it said: “Plans for a factory producing electric car batteries that would bring thousands of jobs for the Vale of Glamorgan have moved a step closer.”.
This was The Times: “Ambitious plans have been revealed for Britain’s first gigafactory capable of producing enough fuel cells and battery packs to power 100,000 zero carbon electric cars.
“The project in south Wales, which is designed to put the UK in the race to be a global hub for the electrified vehicle industry, comes from Britishvolt, a start-up company founded by a Swedish automotive entrepreneur best known as a former associate of Vladimir Antonov, the jailed Russian businessman.
The Secretary of State for Wales Simon Hart said it was “fantastic that we can talk about Wales as being a leading contender” for the UK’s first gigafactory.
The scheme for Wales, though, was soon scrapped, but crucial facts about the men backing it could have been easily discovered.
Investigations by our journalists at Companies House and elsewhere, revealed that a prominent director of BV was Couroush Alai who had lived in a modest flat at Lily Street in Cardiff, which appeared to be a terraced house converted into flats.
His colleague Mr Carlstrom, had been involved in a coach company at Coventry that was in debt to creditors for around £1 million. He had also been director of a watch manufacturer called Thrupp and Maberly which has now been dissolved. In 2011 it had first come to light that Mr Carlstrom was the “representative in Sweden“ of Mr Antonov who had been jailed for fraud.
Mr Carlstrom was involved in a sale and leaseback deal of property and plant belonging to the Swedish car maker Saab. At an extradition hearing, the former ‘representative’ of Mr Carlstrom, Russian-born Mr Antonov (who once owned Portsmouth FC), said that the charges against him were part of a politically-motivated plot. Mr Antonov, whose father was shot and injured in Russia in 2009 over a suspected business dispute, claimed that he was at risk of attack in prison if he was sent abroad to stand trial.
Meanwhile BV’s ‘Chief Executive’ Orral Nadjari, announced: “The first UK gigaplant will… be in an alternative location (to South Wales) which we will be announcing soon”. Yet Mr Nadjari had claimed he had looked at more than 100 sites for the BV factory, before alighting on the former RAF site in Bro Tathan near St Athan.
In the way the news of the ‘alternative location’ (Blyth) and, now, the ‘plans’ for Italy, have been announced, there would seem to be an uncanny echo of what happened in Wales.
“When built, the factory will be the largest of its kind in Europe, and the 12th largest worldwide”, Italvolt declared…
Tomorrow – worrying revelations from a leading media executive and Editor of a new ‘national’ news service in Wales, who proclaimed the “driving force” for it is a ‘comedian’ who made sick ‘jokes’ about a murdering gunman, used bad language to abuse publicly prominent politicians, was placed under police investigation and has been reprimanded by a social media company.
The memories of our Editor Phil Parry’s astonishing decades-long award-winning career in journalism when the interesting backgrounds of individuals were uncovered, as he was gripped by the rare neurological condition Hereditary Spastic Paraplegia (HSP), have been released in a major book ‘A GOOD STORY’. Order the book now!