Regeneration Investment Fund for Wales

Mar 242016
 
RCT HOMES

Earlier this month Martin Shipton of the Wasting Mule and WalesOnline had a brief bout of outrage on learning that RCT Homes was advertising for a chief executive at a salary greater than that paid to the UK Prime Minister or Wales’ First Minister. Here’s the advertisement – with a London recruitment agency – that occasioned his momentary unhappiness with the colonial system.

This recruitment follows on from a number of personnel changes at RCT Homes (mentioned in the same article) that are worthy of reporting, not least the departure of Andrew Lycett, the previous chief executive. So let me hand you over to a correspondent who explains the complexities of it all. I have added links and a few comments to help you understand better who’s who and what’s what.

Now read what follows carefully and join up the dots.

“The Wasting Mule tells us that Andrew Lycett left RCT Homes for reasons that were unexplained on the grounds of “confidentiality”. A more typical corporate response to that question is that he “has found career opportunities elsewhere” which led me to investigate.

Lycett submitted his resignation from RCT Homes at the same time as Cllr Kieron Montague (Labour) announced he would step down and not seek re-election. He is Cabinet Member for Tackling Poverty, Engagement & Housing. He also sat on the RCT Homes board, on behalf of RCT council.

Lycett has actually taken up the role of Finance Director with the Jehu Group, a real estate development company, who beside being a major player at the SA1 development in Swansea, but also has expanded to the west, opening a new office in Haverfordwest, under their subsidiary Waterstone Estates.

Montague, meanwhile, has now taken up a role with Cynon Taf Housing Association, who unlike RCT Homes, has a substantial holding of vacant development land.

In a previous post (here, scroll down) you correctly pointed out the outsourcing of estates administration by a number of local authorities to PwC. A partner of PwC, Lynn Pamment, also sat on the board of RCT Homes, alongside Lycett and Montague. She will, of course, be very conversant with the issues which PwC has been required to ‘assist with’, that of, balancing the budget for Pembrokeshire and Ceredigion councils. This includes selling off land for development.

This, of course, is the very footprint that Waterstone Estates has opened an office for in Haverfordwest for. Waterstone Estates is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Jehu Group, which Lycett is now director.”

We are all familiar with the links between the Third Sector and the Labour Party, but now we see a third element become more evident, that of private businesses, which recruit people with local government and Third Sector experience to help ‘smooth the way’ with the acquisition of land, the gaining of planning approval, and of course the clamping of the sweaty paws upon the funding public.

The supplier of the information mentions the RCT Board, and so I took a peek for myself. It hasn’t been updated, so here it is before it’s changed.

kieron-montague-978729428

It’s the usual mixture of Labour time-servers, Third Sector spongers and token residents. But as we were warned just now, there’s also the PwC representative, looking after her company’s best interests. Lynn Pamment is of course one of those selfless English missionaries without whom we Welsh would be running around naked doing unspeakable things to each other and gabbling away incoherently.

Also on the Board is someone I’ve mentioned before, a regular contributor to the Letters page of the Wasting Mule, where he can be relied upon to fly the flag for Queen and Country (his country that is, not ours), Kel Palmer. And talking of flying, his bio describes him as “A former fast jet pilot in the RAF” . . . not to be confused with those slow jet pilots . . . always getting in the bloody way . . . slowing down the bombing runs. It’s a wonder regime change is ever achieved.

This I think is one to watch. Particularly the future careers of Andrew Lycett and Kieron Montague.

[With so many different people sending me stuff I seem to have lost the original e-mail containing the information used above. So will whoever sent it please get in touch to remind me who you are.]

APPRENTICE APPARATCHIKS

There’s been a lot of talk lately about the need to provide apprenticeships, with political parties trying to outdo each other in the number they’d provide if elected, but did you know that the ‘Welsh’ Government has its very own apprenticeship scheme?

I am indebted to another correspondent for drawing this to my attention. Though he’s very concerned by the fact that most of those chosen for these apprenticeships seem to be related to someone already working for Carwyn and his gang.

Which, I suppose is only to be expected. For it seems that these apprenticeships are advertised only on the ‘Welsh’ Government website. Now with the best will in the world, I doubt if many young people visit the site . . . unless advised to do so by family or friends.

Is this how it should be done? Doesn’t it risk getting nepotism a bad name?

WG Apprenticeships

And by the way, Carwyn, I wouldn’t give a job to that shifty-looking little bugger in the middle, the one fiddling with his tie. If he’s going to do Oliver Hardy impersonations he needs to put on about 150lb . . . and also develop a personality.

CHRISTOPHER MUNDAY, GOAT-TETHERER

A third supplier of information has very interesting things to tell us about Christopher Munday who, you may remember, is the genius who set up the Regeneration Investment Fund for Wales which I – in my previous post – likened unto tethering a goat and waiting for the predators to appear.

He writes . . .

“CM is typical of many public sector employees who see their advancement “up the greasy pole” by avoiding decision making and adopting the mantra of “plausible deniabilty” if anything goes wrong.

He joined Welsh Development Agency in the 1980’s having formerly been a “site finder” for a medium sized house building company. He progressed through a number of low and medium grade clerical jobs, as the WDA expanded through the 1990’s, and then became employed in a department seeking to access private sector money to add to the Agency’s budget for property development purposes.

As he had little knowledge of funding (and no knowledge of property development), his approach was to appoint  major firms of accountants to “write reports” as to how private funding might be accessed. It was quickly realised in Cardiff, that operating a large budget for the purposes of employing private sector accountants, made CM a prime target for the KPMGs, PWC, Deloittes of this world in “keeping him sweet”. He attended, for many years, the annual MIPIM property junkets in Cannes, where his time was spent networking (i.e. being entertained) by his accountancy pals.

Once these reports had been completed, at costs between tens of and hundreds of thousands of pounds, these would be “topped and tailed” by CM and subsequently presented to his line managers and, ultimately, ministers as “all his own work”. On two or three occasions the reports suggested “arms-length” initiatives, with a view to private sector organisations participating in the development of offices and factories in Wales. 

In at least one of these initiatives (called WISP) the “partner participant” was a company called Babcock and Brown. By this time WDA had been “absorbed” into the Assembly. The basis of WISP was that the Assembly would take a long lease on an office block before it was built, and the investment would be pre-sold to provide the funds to build it in the first place.

Unfortunately, after a couple of office developments, Babcock and Brown went bust, and the WISP idea terminated.  Babcock and Brown’s contact with CM was Leo Bedford(LB), and LB started up another company out of the ashes of Babcock and Brown, called Amber.

It was, therefore, of little surprise that when the RIFW (a.k.a. JESSICA) initiative was suggested to Welsh Government, CM was put in charge of running it, and (surprise, surprise again) Amber was appointed as Fund Manager. It is not clear who decided Lambert Smith Hampton (LSH) should be appointed as Property Advisers, but it is clear that Welsh Government appointed both firms (see attached press release). It is also interesting to note that when the RIFW s**t hit the fan, CM denied flatly that Welsh Government had appointed LSH, and insisted that LSH had been appointed by Amber without his knowledge (!).

I know several people who have worked, and still work with Mr Munday, and it is the case that work colleagues, AMs and Ministers largely regard him as a . . . at which point I have to intervene because it gets rather personal, and I’m down to my last couple of mill. Munday commutes to Cardiff from Wiltshire.

What are we to make of this, boys and girls? Now as you know, Jac is a simple soul, and talk of conferences in the South of France, and big numbers that I can’t get my head around, send me into a tizzy. But if half of what my informant tells us is true, then this man sounds like a complete asshole! But of course he’s an English asshole, so he’s guaranteed an important job in Wales, losing millions and millions from the Welsh public purse.

JAMES BOND COMES TO CARDIFF

The ‘Welsh’ media has gone overboard reporting the fact that Aston Martin is to build a new plant in Sant Tathan, just outside Cardiff. Now me explain this to you.

This has nothing to do with jobs; the number of jobs created is almost irrelevant for those who persuaded the ‘Welsh’ Government to bribe Aston Martin to set up on the outskirts of Cardiff. The motivation, pure and simple, is the promotion of Cardiff.

The Aston Martin plant is just another prestige project to add to the Millennium Stadium, the Millennium Centre, the Swalec Stadium, the National Ice Rink and all the other developments we’ve seen in recent years, including – don’t laugh! – the Assembly building itself. Within a very short time I guarantee we shall be hearing, ‘Cardiff – Home to Aston Martin’.

Many are already asking how much the ‘Welsh’ Government paid Aston Martin to move to the Vale, but nobody’s answering. I am indebted to @tomgallard for letting me publish this letter in which the ‘Welsh’ Government refuses to disclose how much it invested in this wonderful project that will be of benefit to the whole of Wales.

If you think I’m just an embittered old Jack, and that the ‘Welsh’ Governments’s prime consideration was jobs, just ask yourself this – would they have rolled out the red carpet with gold thread for Kia, or Dacia, even if these companies were creating 3,000 jobs? And answer that honestly.

Aston Martin Logo 1

And if you believe that employment / investment was the prime consideration, and that’s why the ‘Welsh’ Government was prepared to break the bank to get Aston Martin to Wales, then why weren’t the jobs directed to an area where they are much more needed than the Vale of Glamorgan, where I guarantee residents will soon be opposing all the disruption the Aston Martin development threatens?

Oh, and one final thing. Scroll down on the letter to Tom Gallard and see who signed it. Yes, that’s the same Christopher Munday we discussed just now. Whenever there’s Welsh public funding to be wasted, Munday’s yer man! 

P.S. Another factor worth considering is that this rush of automotive good news – Aston Martin to the Vale of Glamorgan, TVR to Ebbw Vale – comes just ahead of the Assembly elections on May 9. The Labour Party must be calculating that news like this is worth a few thousand votes, maybe saving the party a couple of seats. Very important when we remember that Labour currently holds 30 out of the 60 seats and is predicted to lose anything up to 5 of them.

 *

What we see in these examples, and in other cases I’ve highlighted over the years, is utter contempt for the democratic process and the public purse – which works to the detriment of us all. Basically, it’s, ‘Sod off! we don’t have to tell you anything’.

When RCT Homes was questioned by Martin Shipton about the £150,000 salary for its chief executive he could only tell us, “A spokeswoman for RCT Homes said the body would not be offering a comment.”

And when Andrew Lycett left RCT Homes to take up his post with real estate company the Jehu Group, the reasons for his leaving were unexplained on grounds of “confidentially”. This, remember, is a Registered Social Landlord getting large dollops of funding from the public purse.

The ‘Welsh’ Government apprenticeships are obviously aimed squarely at those in the know. Otherwise they’d be advertised properly so that everybody’d have a chance.

The RIFW scandal for which Christopher Munday is so culpable is still shrouded in mystery because so much information is being withheld and so many lies are being told.

Finally, we have the countless millions lobbed Aston Martin’s way to get another blue chip company to Cardiff. Yet we cannot be told how much because this information is – so someone at the ‘Welsh’ Government argues – “exempt from disclosure”. Is that really true?

And all this is happening in a system that prides itself on ‘openness’, focussed on a building made of glass, so that we, the people, can see what they’re up to. What a load of deceitful symbolism and absolute bollocks!

(Calm down, Jones.)

Now a compete change of subject, but another indictment of how Wales is run, and the priorities of those who run our county and our cities.

BEDD GWYROSYDD
Bedd Gwyrosydd

Feel free to use this photograph

When I was a boy, I used to catch the school bus at Brynhyfryd Square, which would then make the long haul up Llangyfelach Road, past the ‘Public Hall’ and its bust of Daniel James, before the turning left and along Heol Gwyrosydd to Penlan School.

Of course I knew the hymn Calon Lân, and I knew that the words had been written by local man Daniel James. (Bit of a hero of my mamgu!) Which was just as well, because I wasn’t going to learn things like that in Penlan School, or any school in Swansea. Trigonometry, Latin, and the history of British imperialism would stand me in much better stead for the world that awaited me.

These memories came back when I opened an e-mail and saw a photo that someone had sent with it. The photograph was taken the day after Palm Sunday, and it shows Daniel James’ sorry-looking grave in Mynyddbach cemetery. The person who sent me the photograph said he had to avoid huge Victorian headstones leaning at dangerous angles to reach the grave, and that a machete would have helped to get through the undergrowth.

Doesn’t the man who wrote perhaps our most famous hymn deserve better than this? If I was talking here about some monument to our subjugation, or a reminder of our colonialist exploitation, or some house where Nelson had enjoyed Lady Hamilton, then Cadw, or the National Trust, or some other bunch of colonialist grant-grabbers would demand a few million to ‘maintain it for the nation’. (And we know which nation.)

If you feel as I do, that Daniel James deserves to be remembered better than this, then write to somebody; Swansea council, the ‘Welsh’ Government, anybody. Send a letter or e-mail to your local paper, or the Daily Post, the Western Mail.

Because how much would it cost to maintain this grave with the dignity it merits? Less than a set of tyres on an Aston Martin. Probably less than Christopher Munday earns in a week. One per cent of what the chief executive of RCT Homes will be paid in a year. Wake up people! let’s start getting our priorities straight. Let’s start remembering who we are.

UPDATE 28.03.2016: Good News! A mystery benefactor has appeared to help with the restoration of the Gwyrosydd headstone.

 

Mar 212016
 

TO RECAP . . . 

You will recall that in the previous post dealing with the highly questionable disposal of publicly-owned land by the Regeneration Investment Fund for Wales we encountered two Guernsey-based companies, Imperial House Investments Ltd (Incorporated 30.11.2013) and South Wales Land Developments Ltd (Incorporated 01.02.2014) both of which had just two directors, Langley Davies and Jane Pocock.

It became clear that South Wales Land Developments was set up to serve as a vehicle for the real purchaser in the land deal with RIFW, Sir Gilbert Stanley Thomas, originally of Merthyr, but now resident in Guernsey. So what might be the purpose of Imperial House Investments Ltd?

The obvious question, to me, was, ‘Is there a specific Imperial House that might answer the question?’ Yes, and unsurprisingly it’s to be found on Imperial Park in Newport, listed among the publicly-owned assets disposed of by the Regeneration Investment Fund for Wales.

RIFW Land Sales

IMAGE COURTESY OF BBC WALES

As I shall explain below, Imperial House was bought by Langley Davies and South Wales Land Developments on behalf of Stan Thomas in the controversial ‘portfolio disposal’ of RIFW assets. But is there anything in the pipeline – as with the housing planned for the Lisvane land – that might affect its value in an upward direction? And come to that, does SWLD still own Imperial House?

The answer to the first question is that Imperial Park will be very close to the projected M4 relief road / ‘black route’ announced by Edwina Hart in July 2014, which is bound to increase its value. ‘But wait!’ I hear you cry, ‘Imperial House Investments Ltd of Guernsey was created in November 2013, a full eight months before Redwina spoke’.

Which could suggest that Stan Thomas and Langley Davies are gifted with second sight . . . or there may be a more mundane explanation

The answer to the second question is where it gets interesting. For Imperial House – or at least, part of it – is now owned by yet another Guernsey-based company involved in these shenanigans.

Here are the details and the documentation.

Imperial House was bought on July 13th, 2012, from South Wales Land Developments Ltd by Imperial House Investments Ltd – a company that didn’t officially exist until November 2013 – for the sum stated on title number WA701104 as being £1,750,000. Here is a link to that document, and here’s a link to the plan of the site, showing the land bought bordered in red.

Then, on October 26th, 2015, it appears that part of the Imperial House site – known as “Phase II” – was sold for £3,853,823 (title number CYM664986) to Oxenwood YPL (Investments) Ltd of PO Box 25, Regency Court, Glategny Esplanade, St Peter Port, Guernsey GY1 3AP. Here’s a link to the title document, and here’s a link to the plan of the site, with the Oxenwood purchase bordered in red. It’s worth comparing the two plans.

So what do we know about Oxenwood? Not a lot. I couldn’t turn up anything for Oxenwood YPL (Investments) Ltd. (And what does YPL stand for anyway?) There is however an Oxenwood Real Estate LLP based in London which might or might not be connected. Though Imperial House doesn’t show in its portfolio.

While searching for Imperial House I did turn up an advert for offices for hire in Imperial Courtyard, which forms part of the Imperial House purchase. The agent is Lambert Smith Hampton, the company that advised RIFW on the sale of its assets.

Imperial Courtyard

PICTURE COURTESY OF https://propertylink.estatesgazette.com

The building is shown above, with Unit 6 being the ground floor. Is this still owned by Stan Thomas or was it part of the sale to Oxenwood Real Estate LLP, which might have been no more than Stan Thomas selling from one of his Guernsey companies to another?

(To save you taking your socks off, 4,134 sq ft x £15.00 = £62,010.)

Or is this a new build on the “c1a (circa one acre) development site” that was part of the Imperial House transaction? And if “Unit 6” is offered in this ad can we assume that there are at least five other units?

Another big question is – how much did SWLD pay the RIFW for Imperial House? Whatever the answer we can be sure that it will be a very good deal for Sir Gilbert Stanley Thomas.

Reminding us that while the Lisvane site may be the ‘jewel in the crown’ there are a number of other lucrative elements to this portfolio sale by the RIFW that the media may have overlooked.

THE DELOITTE REPORT, INTRODUCTION

One thing that’s become clear as I’ve looked at the RIFW story is how the ‘Welsh’ Labour Party and its laughable ‘Welsh’ Government has procrastinated and dithered, how hard it has tried to stop the truth emerging while simultaneously trying to distance itself from the fall-out. Among the tactics employed has been to regularly trot out the line that the RIFW is an “arms-length” organisation.

The Deloitte report that we shall now consider might also be seen as another bit of procrastination, another effort to buy time in the hope that the critics would get tired and give up. The report was presented to the ‘Welsh’ Government on August 8th, 2013. Its findings are so conclusively damning that it should have resulted in immediate action, but those clowns down Cardiff docks continued to dither.

Before progressing with a detailed look into the Deloitte report I also recommend that you read Owen Donovan’s Oggy Bloggy Ogwr blog, where you will find an excellent analysis of this scandal stage by stage and learn how the Assembly and the ‘Welsh’ Government have handled it. Here’s a link to his most recent contribution, Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap VI: The Debate and you can work back from there to read the earlier pieces.

Click on the title to open the full report, Welsh Government Peer Review – RIFW Asset Portfolio Disposal and keep it open in another window. I know I always say this, but this time I really mean it – please set aside an hour or so to read the report through. I should warn you that it is redacted, but not so heavily as to detract from the seriousness of its findings. (Though of course it did make me wonder, given what is left, how damning were the redacted parts.)

I shall now list what I consider to be the most important of Deloitte’s findings, page by page, but before that maybe I should explain who’s who, and what their roles were.

  • Chris Munday is the civil servant behind the creation of the Regeneration Investment Fund for Wales. There is surely a knighthood awaiting Mr Munday . . . or possibly a posting to the Gurnos community centre (personal injury insurance provided).
  • Lambert Smith Hampton is the commercial property consultancy that advised the RIFW on the sales, through its Cardiff office headed by Lee Mogridge, with input from Jeremy Green who is based in London.
  • Amber Infrastructure was the other RIFW adviser and is now considering taking action against LSH. (The second link contains the sentence, ” . . . they [the Public Accounts Committee] were concerned that one of the company’s [LSH’s] employees was working for both RIFW, which was selling the sites, and South Wales Land Developments, which was buying the site.” This is also referenced in this report from 2013 into the internal governance of the RIFW – page 29 iii – but the individual is not named.)
  • The public interest was supposed to be have been safeguarded by the five people appointed to the RIFW Board by the ‘Welsh’ Government. These were Richard Anning, of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in Englandandwales; Ceri Breeze, a ‘Welsh’ Government civil servant; Richard Harris, another apparatchik; Chris Holley, the former Lib Dem leader of Swansea council; and Jonathan Geen, of Acuity Legal, the Endgame Group, and, more recently, Bellerophon Scotland, plus of course, South Wales Land Developments Ltd and, ultimately, Stan Thomas.
THE DELOITTE REPORT (by page and column heading)

Page 12: Note that the original value put on Imperial House was £5.2m, yet SWLD was able to sell the property to Imperial House Investments Ltd for £1.75m, so I ask again, how much did SWLD pay for Imperial House? And remember, the £5.2m value was given before anyone knew of the M4 ‘black route’ coming right by Imperial House.

Imperial House

CLICK TO ENLARGE

Page 14 Observations: January 31st, 2011: “The Investment Manager’s Report and the Minutes of the Board Meeting at which this document was discussed make no mention of consideration of a portfolio disposal”. Suggesting that the original intention was to sell the lots individually, or perhaps in batches.

The reference in the lower box to Imperial House could be interpreted as someone trying to drive down the asking price.

Page 15: This theme of driving down the supposed value of Imperial House continues.

Page 17 Description: The reference in the lower box makes it clear that by March 28th, 2011, an offer has been received to buy all the properties in a “portfolio disposal”.

Page 21 Observations: It seems clear that Deloitte cannot understand why the Realisation Value of Imperial House has fallen since 2011, and no explanation is offered.

Page 24 Description: This tells us that in the early part of 2011 there were a number of companies interested in the RIFW land, it lists them. Legat Owen, for example, had a client interested in all the sites in the north. But the job lot had already been promised to Stan Thomas.

Page 25 Observations: Lambert Smith Hampton – the Investment Managers to the RIFW, entrusted with securing the best possible deal for these public assets – has not advertised the properties but has “informally canvassed” likely purchasers.

Also note something I commented on in my previous post. Jonathan Geen is dealing with Langley Davies of South Wales Land Developments, Stan Thomas’ front man, but SWLD didn’t officially exist!

Page 26 Observations: Read it all. “No advertising took place” says Deloitte. Though there are more vague references to “informal canvassing”, making it clear that the deal was already done and dusted.

Page 27 Description: Some time before April 21st, 2011 it was known that an offer had been made by Stan Thomas. May 10th, 2011, Langley Davies says that Stan Thomas (through GST of Guernsey) will be lending him the money to make the purchase “at 3% over interbank rate”. So Langley is the real purchaser, with Stan just lending him the money?

               Observations: On April 21st, 2011, Board member Jonathan Geen declares a “potential conflict” (of interests). AT WHICH POINT HE SHOULD HAVE BEEN GIVEN THE OLD HEAVE-HO FROM THE RIFW.

Page 28 Description: Here we learn that the “portfolio offer letter from GST Investments Ltd” was received on March 4th, 2011.

Also that, “LSH met Sir Stanley Thomas and Langley Davies to discuss the sale” on March 30th, 2011. Was no one else present?

Page 29 Description: Value of Imperial House downplayed, again.

Page 30 Description: At 20th April, 2011, we learn of the first written evidence of LSH recommending acceptance of the Stan Thomas offer. We also learn that Carwyn Jones and the “IM” were informed of this development.

We also see yet another mention of no due diligence carried out with regard to GST or SWLD.

Pages 32 & 33: With a few minor caveats the Board decides by the end of April 2011 to (officially) accept Stan Thomas’ offer.

Page 38 Description: Lambert Smith Hampton “writes to Martin Pollock of Barclays Wealth (acting for Stan Thomas) accepting an offer of £22.5m based on three staged payments” on June 15th 2011. Anyone who’s been paying attention will have noted that this purchase figure has changed a few times.

               Observations: Note Deloitte’s curious and rather worrying mention of the Board’s recorded vote.

Here’s some more information on the Board, “From January 2011, the Board comprised five voting members: two Welsh Government officials (one of whom served as Chair), a Welsh Local Government Association representative and two external members appointed following an advertised public appointments process. Although Welsh Ministers appointed the Board members, under the LLP model all of the Board members had a legal responsibility to act in the interests of RIFW, even if those interests were not entirely aligned with those of Welsh Ministers(?). LSH told the Committee that they felt the composition of the Board contained the right expertise for this venture.”

I’m quoting there from the January 2016 report by the Assembly’s Public Accounts Committee (page 18). Which goes on to say, “The small size of the RIFW Board meant that its capacity to discharge its responsibilities was weakened when a conflict of interest regarding the portfolio sale to SWLD arose when one of the external members, Jonathan Geen, started to act as the legal advisor to SWLD on the sale transaction.”

Further documentation on the Public Accounts Committee investigation is available here.

Page 39 Description: It is noted on July 22nd 2011, Redrow offers “£2m unconditionally for the Bangor site”. This offer was made to Lambert Smith Hampton’s Manchester office. Why didn’t Redrow go to the Cardiff office handling the sale? Did they know something?

Whatever the answer, this offer seems to have slipped through the floorboards, though of course we should remember that the deal with Stan and Olly had already been stitched up by then.

Page 40 Description: Heads of Terms between RIFW and Newco Ltd (acting for Stan Thomas), July 15th, 2011,“describes the sale of 18 properties, but it also states that RIFW may not be in a position to dispose of Imperial House and Garth Park”.

                Observations: “Jonathan Geen is noted as the purchaser’s solicitor”.

Page 44 Description: Against the date November 15th, 2011, we read, “Purchaser is now TBC – a Guernsey Registered Holding Company wholly owned by St Lawrence Property Investments Ltd, registered in UK and funded by GST”. 

St Lawrence Property Investments can be found at Unit 6, Imperial Courtyard, the property for rent we looked at earlier. Its directors are Langley Davies and Jane Pocock, but as a new face we have a Karen Davies, who could be Langley’s wife or, given that she was born in the same month as him, his twin sister.

This company, Number 07545621, was Incorporated February 28th, 2011, and before moving to Newport its address, until August 17th, 2011, was 3 Assembly Square, Britannia Quay, Cardiff Bay. The same address as Acuity Legal, where Jonathan Geen is listed as “Partner – Real Estate”.

If St Lawrence Property Investments was registered at 3 Assembly Square, the address of Jonathan Geen’s company, Acuity Legal, and Incorporated on February 28th, then it’s reasonable to assume that Geen was representing Stan Thomas and Langley Davies some two months before he confessed to his “potential conflict” on April 21st. It may have been longer.

THOUGHTS

The ‘Welsh’ Government seems to think that the RIFW fiasco was all over with the Public Accounts Committee report in January. That was certainly the opinion of Lesley Griffiths AM, Minister for Communities . . . the very communities that have lost out by RIFW not realising anything like the potential of the assets it was entrusted with.

RIFW Lesley Griffith

We have since learnt that the ‘Welsh’ Government is getting tough, and earlier this month it was announced that there are plans to take legal action against Lambert Smith Hampton, which has also been referred to the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors.

This is the very least the ‘Welsh’ Government could do, because the performance of LSH leaves only two possibilities:

1/ Those allocated by LSH to the RIFW contract were so utterly inept and unprofessional that they should never be given another job more complicated than a house sale.

2/ The company, or one or more of its employees, was in the pay of Langley and Stan, which is what is suggested by more than one source. If an employee of LSH was simultaneously working for the RIFW and the Langley and Stan show, then surely that person can be prosecuted?

It is therefore wholly correct that Carwyn and his posse should ride off into the sunset in pursuit of the LSH gang. But I don’t understand why Jonathan Geen has been allowed to leave town unmolested. I’m assuming he’s left Cardiff, for as I suggested just now, he seems to have moved to Scotland, where he is currently starring on the Bellerophon Scotland website, now calling himself ‘Jon’ Geen but using the same, Acuity, photograph. (Open out for full profile.)

Jonathan Geen was appointed to the RIFW Board in December 2010. The Terms and Conditions of his appointment can be found here (page 31). I’m linking again to the somewhat neglected report, published in April 2013, into the governance arrangements of the RIFW, written by Gilbert C. Lloyd FCA CPFA. You can read it for yourself, but I can save you the trouble by telling you that Mr Lloyd concludes that the RIFW is a bit of a shambles.

The penultimate Duty reads, “Acting in the best interests of the Fund”. Was it possible for Jonathan Geen to act in the best interests of the Fund while also serving Langley and Stan? His responsibility to the Fund should have meant maximising its profits, yet the gruesome twosome wanted to pay as little as possible for the land.

The final Duty says that the Committee on Standards in Public Life’s Seven Principles of Public Life are adhered to. Read them and you may think that Jonathan Geen broke most of them while acting as a Board member of the RIFW, supposedly safeguarding the public interest.

So why was Jonathan Geen allowed to take the high road?

RIFW Jonathan Geen

PICTURE COURTESY OF ACUITY LEGAL

CONCLUSIONS

The Regeneration Investment Fund for Wales was a cock-up from the outset. A perfect example of what goes wrong when civil servants and politicians with no knowledge of the real world try to deal with ‘businessmen’. Setting up the RIFW in the manner it was done was like tethering a goat and waiting for the predators to appear.

Another contributing factor was that, despite its grandiose ambitions, Cardiff remains a relatively small city, and those in particular sectors – such as property sales and development – will almost certainly know each other. Not only professionally, but also socially. Perhaps they’ll belong to the same Lodge or golf club.

While I consistently argue for contracts and jobs to be given to local companies, in the case of the RIFW land disposal, the contracts should have been dispersed to people unknown to each other. This must be borne in mind for all similar business in future and, indeed, more generally when awarding contracts.

For as I travel around Wales I notice signs on development sites telling me that the architect, or the surveyor, or the agent involved, is based in Cardiff, and almost certainly got the contract because he is close to the ‘Welsh’ Government, perhaps in more senses than one.

So let’s learn from the RIFW scandal and in future spread the contracts and the wealth they generate around the country.

All that said, the ultimate blame for the Welsh people being deprived of £200m or more does not lie with Langley Davies or Stan Thomas, Jonathan Geen or anyone at Lambert Smith Hampton, for these were simply being true to their natures. No, the blame lies squarely with the ‘Welsh’ Labour Government down Cardiff docks.

The Regeneration Investment Fund for Wales was a disaster waiting to happen, and it was obvious as early as March 2011 that the disaster was playing out, that there were conflicts of interest, that companies showing interest in doing deals were being cold-shouldered in favour of a single buyer, who seemed to be known to all involved, and was at the very same time making a tidy profit out of selling Cardiff airport to the ‘Welsh’ Government!

And while this tragedy was unfolding those buffoons were hiding behind the ‘arms-length’ defence. Yet the RIFW was their creation and they could have stepped in at any time to protect public assets. And that’s exactly what they should have done. It was their duty.

The response of the wretched Lesley Griffiths sums up not only the ‘Let’s move on’ attitude of her administration, but also ‘Welsh’ Labour’s complete lack of ambition for Wales, which could be summed up with, ‘Ooo, we’ve got about 5% of what these assets should have realised – isn’t that wonderful’!

As I’ve said, these clowns will be asking for your vote again in May. Anyone who votes Labour does not – cannot – have the best interests of Wales at heart. Vote for anyone but Labour!

Let’s get the Labour monkey off Wales’ back!

Mar 152016
 

Back in October 2012, on my old Google blog, in the post Wales: Sicily Of The North, I touched on the emerging story of publicly-owned land being sold off rather cheaply by the Regeneration Investment Fund for Wales. Sold to the mysterious, Guernsey-based company, South Wales Land Developments.

Information on the deal was sparse in 2012 beyond the fact that the public face of South Wales Land Developments was one Langley John Davies. As I said back in 2012, “a busy boy, our Langley”, who’d been involved with many companies, but of course information on SWLD was sparse because it’s based in Guernsey.

Some information on SWLD has since filtered into the public domain, this tells us that there are only two directors, Langley Davies and Jane Pocock. Davies has some background in property, but most of his companies seem to have been in finance and loans, perhaps for vehicle purchase.

Pocock’s background as a director was exclusively in vehicles – vans by the look of it – until she joined Davies in another Guernsey-registered company, Imperial House Investments Ltd (Incorporated 30.11.2013), and then South Wales Land Developments.

Lisvane

You’ll note that nothing has ever been filed for either Imperial House Investments Ltd or South Wales Land Developments. And while the role of SWLD will be explained below, I can’t begin to guess at the purpose of IHI. (All suggestions welcome.)

Clearly, Davies and Pocock were unlikely buyers of parcels of land in various parts of Wales, and probably didn’t have the £21m needed to complete the purchase. And although the report from September 2012 tells us that the land has already been transferred to South Wales Land Developments, SWLD wasn’t incorporated in Guernsey until the first of February 2014.

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This was all rather confusing until we learnt last year that the initial offer for the land came from GST Investments, also of Guernsey, and that GST stands for (Sir) Gilbert Stanley Thomas, brother to Peter Thomas OBE; scions of the House of Pies founded by their father Thomas Stanley Thomas, who died last year aged 98.

The quid pro quo for Davies and Pocock distracting attention from Sir Stan might have been him becoming a director of their company Vans Direct Ltd, Company Number 06971144, in September 2013 . . . and no doubt investing ‘a little something’ in repayment for services rendered.

So here are two, linked, questions:

  • Seeing as the original purchaser in March 2012 was Stan Thomas, why has the ‘Welsh’ media avoided mentioning his name, and that of his company, GST Investments?
  • Why have we been repeatedly told that these parcels of land were sold, in March 2012, to a company, South Wales Land Developments, that didn’t officially exist until February 1st, 2014?

We know now that Langley Davies and Jane Pocock were fronting for Stan Thomas, and were no doubt paid well to hide his involvement in the purchase, but why would Thomas have felt the need for this subterfuge?

Part of the answer might lie in the fact that around the same time as the land sales were being ‘arranged’ he and brother Peter were benefiting from another lucrative deal at the expense of the Welsh public purse. This was the sale of Cardiff airport to the ‘Welsh’ Government for £52m.

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The airport had been owned by Glamorgan Country Council and then its successor councils of Mid, West and South Glamorgan until another round of local government reorganisation saw the facility privatised and sold to TBI plc in April 1995. So what do we know about TBI?

A 2004 BBC article tells us, “Stanley Thomas, now 62, started TBI with developer Paul Bailey in the early 1990s, and the firm became a fully listed company on the Stock Exchange in 1994”. True . . . up to a point. The original company, Incorporated on August 8th 1972, was called Markheath Plc, Company Number 01064763

Markheath changed its name to Thomas Bailey Investments Plc in March 1994 and to TBI Ltd in 2009. Clearly using the surnames of Paul Bailey and Gilbert Stanley Thomas to give us TBI. Though Paul Bailey only served as a director of TBI from 28.03.1994 to 28.02.1996, while Thomas became a director on the same date but stayed on until 04.01.2005.

And yet, another curiosity is that TBI seems to have been in existence before Bailey and Thomas became directors. As of September 5th 1992 – eighteen months before they joined – we find five directors, named Springer, Haines, Creber, Rendle and Westcott. While another who became a director at the same time as Bailey and Thomas was a Paul Meyrick Guy. Check out the full list of directors here.

The influx of Iberian names post January 2005 can be attributed to the fact that in 2004 TBI became a subsidiary of (90% owned by) the multinational, Barcelona-based Abertis Infraestructuras SA.

TBI figures

CLICK TO ENLARGE

Before proceeding maybe we should establish who Paul Meyrick Guy is. He lives on Rudry Road in Cardiff or, to be more exact, in the suburb of Lisvane. Rudry Road meanders out into open country, under the M4 and on towards the Rhymni river, through the kind of green fields so coveted by ‘developers’. And wouldn’t you know it – he’s a neighbour to Peter Thomas!

Paul Meyrick Guy has held many directorships . . . many, many directorships. In his 61 years among us Guy has held no less than 111 directorships. Is this a record?

Having mentioned Peter Thomas it struck me as strange that he was never a director of TBI like his brother. Though in the BBC report I linked to earlier, headed ‘Brothers go from pies to planes‘, it says, “The brothers, from Merthyr Tydfil, own almost a fifth of TBI’s shares“. In the graphic above we see that in 2012 TBI’s net worth was £408,634,000, so work it out for yourself.

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It became known in the early part of 2013 that Cardiff Airport had been sold to the ‘Welsh’ Government. And although sold for £52m the site was independently valued in the £20m – £30m bracket, suggesting that the ‘Welsh’ Government paid well over the odds.

According to the article I’ve just linked to, “Ministers bought Cardiff Airport from its Spanish owners Abertis for £52m”. Note that in this report – and other reports at the time – the Thomas brothers’ company, TBI, has now vanished from the picture. But as I explained above, TBI still owned Cardiff Airport, but TBI was now owned by Abertis.

Thomas Brothers

To put the price paid for Cardiff Airport into perspective, consider this: Also in 2013, the Scottish Government bought Prestwick Airport for £1, and Prestwick is a ‘real’ airport, with transatlantic flights.

Also owned by TBI-Abertis was Belfast International Airport, enjoying passenger numbers over four times higher than Cardiff. It too was sold in 2013, to a US company, as part of a package that also included Stockholm Skavsta Airport, terminals at Orlando Sanford in Florida, and an airport management business in the USA. The package price was just £244m.

If Cardiff, with less than one million passengers a year, and airlines abandoning the facility like the proverbial rats, was worth £52m then Belfast must have made up almost all of the package price in the other sale with Stockholm, Orlando, etc., thrown in for good luck!

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The latest news in the land sale scandal is that the ‘Welsh’ Government plans to begin legal proceedings against Lambert Smith Hampton, the company that advised the Regeneration Investment Fund for Wales with the valuation of the land. But is LSH the right target? And even if it is, should it be the only target?

There is an obvious and understandable desire on the part of Carwyn and his gang to deny political opponents ammunition, to look ‘strong’ (don’t laugh!), especially with elections coming up in May, but it’s all pointless window dressing.

I say that because the problem exposed by the sales of Cardiff airport and the prime development land reaches deep into the Welsh body politic, and exposes associated weaknesses in the media and elsewhere.

I have always argued that Wales is Europe’s Third World. The greater part of the country is ignored and allowed to decline while investment is poured into the capital at the behest of – and for the benefit of – business interests that don’t give a damn about Wales or the Welsh people. Devolution has only made things worse.

The warnings were there at the very outset, when Lord Crickhowell – formerly Nicholas Edwards MP – and his gang at Associated British Ports, manoeuvred the newly created Assembly into taking out a punitive lease on Crickhowell House, owned of course by ABP, and then to build the new Assembly building on land owned by ABP rather than take over Cardiff City Hall, or Swansea Guildhall which had clearly won Ron Davies’ ‘competition’.

And let’s remember that this crew had already made a killing with the Cardiff Bay Development Corporation, using public money to redevelop land owned by ABP. Where was the ‘Welsh’ media when this scandal needed to be exposed?

The ‘Welsh’ media is the Cardiff media, and will support anything it believes is in Cardiff’s interests, even when done at the expense of the rest of Wales. (The city region project and the ‘improvements’ demanded for the M4 being ongoing examples.) And when it comes to powerful individuals like Nick Edwards and the Thomas brothers then men like these are beyond scrutiny and above criticism.

Which explains why few if any Welsh people are aware that the Thomas brothers made a killing out of the sale of Cardiff Airport – because according to the ‘Welsh’ media the vendor was a totally unconnected Spanish company!

Equally, in the land deal, Stan Thomas has not been mentioned in the mainstream media, we’ve only been told of his mouthpiece, Langley Davies, and South Wales Land Developments, a company that exists in name only.

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Let’s be blunt. We are dealing here with corruption. Corruption and incompetence at the very highest levels within a devolved system. Facilitated by a ‘Welsh’ Labour Party that knows nothing about business and can be given the runaround by any shyster spinning a line.cash dispenser

The aforementioned ‘Welsh’ Labour Party then deludes itself into  believing that it creates a ‘balance’ by investing in the Third Sector. But here, again, it is given the runaround by parasites in it for no one but themselves. Here’s a very recent example.

And what benefits do we, the Welsh people, see from the enrichment of Cardiff businessmen, or the billions poured into the Third Sector? We see nothing – this is the cause of our deprivation.

This is Wales in the twenty-first century; the perfect storm of a devolved administration that is little more than a cash dispenser being run by people who understand nothing of the world beyond political debate and who are preyed upon by unscrupulous individuals and interests.

No matter who you vote for in May, nothing will change. This system cannot be tinkered with, or improved from within, it must be swept away. Wales needs a revolution, and a fresh start. Independence, and a new capital far from Cardiff and its malign influences, is the only answer.