Fraudster found guilty of fleecing public funds for non-existent Welsh aquaculture projects
A man has pleaded guilty to fraud after claiming up to GBP 4.7 million (USD 6.1 million, EUR 5.5 million) worth of European Union and Welsh government grants to make Wales an aquaculture powerhouse.
Anthony Smith, 72, admitted to three counts of fraudulent trading at Cardiff Crown Court, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) confirmed.
The grants relate to the companies Dragon Research Ltd., Dragon Feeds Ltd., and Dragon Baits Ltd., and their development of various projects involving ragworms.
His deception involved claiming large sums of money to develop a plant to process ragworm for fish feed, fishing bait, and ponds in which to rear them.
Smith made false promises that prosperity would be brought to Port Talbot and Pendine in Carmarthenshire through 120 new jobs. In reality, only seven positions were created.
Smith ran Dragon Research Ltd. with Colin Mair, 68, who admitted to one count of fraudulent trading. They were assisted by Keith Peters, 72, now a retired chartered accountant, who admitted to two counts of false accounting.
“Not only did Anthony Smith wildly overstate how much money had been spent, but he made up stories about projects which never existed,” said Janet Potter of the CPS. “He did this all under the guise of being environmentally-friendly and boosting the local economy. He promised to make Wales a world leader in the aquaculture industry, but instead he abused the system and robbed the local community of investment.”
The case has been adjourned for sentencing on 10 May, 2019.
At the heart of the prosecution’s case was proving that Smith knowingly and willfully misused government funds.
The CPS used specialist software to interrogate financial records belonging to the Welsh government. It also reviewed seven million items of digital material to ensure there was nothing to undermine the case.
In addition, a forensic accountant was hired to review financial accounts which enabled the CPS to prove that Smith had deliberately structured the business in order to hide the flow of illegitimate funds.
Image courtesy of the Crown Prosecution Service