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Fraudster sentenced for dishonestly claiming up to £4.7 million in government grants

|News, Fraud and economic crime

A persistent fraudster who dishonestly claimed up to £4.7 million in government grants to support his companies in an elaborate aquaculture business ‎has today been sentenced to three years and nine months in custody.

Anthony Smith, 72, took part in a prolonged fraud over a five-year period to secure funds from the Welsh Assembly Government and European Union to develop a plant to process ragworms for bait and ponds in which to rear them.

He falsely promised the enterprise would bring 120 new jobs and investment to Port Talbot and Pendine in Carmarthenshire but in reality, only eleven people were employed as a result of the fraud.

Janet Potter, for the CPS, said: “Anthony Smith defrauded the taxpayer of millions of pounds by wildly overstating how much money had been spent, and lied about the purchase of equipment.

“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 court heard Smith has previously admitted three counts of fraudulent trading, which included falsely applying for grants that relate to the companies Dragon Research Ltd, Dragon Feeds Ltd and Dragon Baits Ltd for similar projects.

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.

Building the case

At the heart of the prosecution 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.

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. Further to sentencing, a confiscation order of £75,000 has been made for payment by way of compensation to the Welsh Assembly Government
  • Colin Mair (DOB: 7/04/1951) pleaded guilty to one count of fraudulent trading on 4 February 2019. Sentenced to 21 months custody, suspended to 18 months, plus payment of £15,000 towards prosecution costs
  • Keith Peters (DOB: 15/11/1946) pleaded guilty to two counts of false accounting on 27 March 2019. To serve an immediate custodial sentence for 15 months.

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