Fraudster guilty of fleecing public purse with ragworm ponds

|News, Fraud and economic crime

A man has today pleaded guilty to fraud after claiming up to £4.7m worth of European Union and Welsh Government grants.

Anthony Smith, 72, admitted three counts of fraudulent trading today (Thursday, 28 March) at Cardiff Crown Court.

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 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 the 120 new jobs. In reality only seven positions were created.

Smith dishonestly ran Dragon Research Ltd with Colin Mair, 68, who admitted one count of fraudulent trading. They were assisted by Keith Peters, 72, now a retired chartered accountant, who admitted two counts of false accounting.

Janet Potter, for the CPS, said: “Not only did Anthony Smith wildly overstate how much money had been spent, but he made up stories about projects which never existed.

“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 sentence to 10 May 2019.

Building the case

At the heart of the prosecution case was proving that Smith knowingly and wilfully 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.

Notes to editors

  • Janet Potter is Deputy Head of the Specialist Fraud Division at the Crown Prosecution Service
  • Anthony Smith (DOB: 15/05/1946) pleaded guilty to three counts of fraudulent trading on Thursday 28 March 2019
  • Colin Mair (DOB: 7/04/1951) pleaded guilty to one count of fraudulent trading on 4 February 2019
  • Keith Peters (DOB: 15/11/1946) pleaded guilty to two counts of false accounting on 27 March 2019.

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