Simon Williams

Jun 232017
 

Channel 4 News did a good job exposing the Tory telephone canvassing operation in Neath, but who’d have thought it, eh, principled Young Conservatives up to no good. I am appalled. And in Neath, of all places, fiefdom of the Orange Baron.

The call centre seems to have been run by a guy called Sascha Lopez, here’s his Linkedin profile. He speaks English with an accent local to Neath, but his Linkedin profile says he also speaks Spanish, so I’d guess his parents are Spanish but he was brought up in the Swansea area, for he now lives in Pontardawe.

Before attending Gorseinon College he was a pupil at Ffynone House School in Swansea. Now I remember this school, and all the others in town at the time of my own education (much of it gained in the tiled wonderland of a subterranean snooker hall).

There was Gregg’s, Clark’s, Emmanuel and others. The gap they seemed to fill was for kids who’d failed the 11+ examination but whose parents had enough money to avoid the stigma of their offspring attending a secondary modern school with all those rough children. I suppose they pander to a very similar petit bourgeois prejudice in the era of comprehensive education.

You’ll see that on his Linkedin profile young Sascha tells us that he works for Blue Telecoms, and has done since May 2011. (‘Blue’ is presumably a nod to the Conservative Party?) Now there’s a website for Blue Telecoms but I cannot find anything listed with Companies House. So what is the status of Blue Telecoms. Is it not a company? Or is it registered outside of the UK? I think we should clear up the nature of the beast Sascha Lopez runs.

While Blue Telecoms may not be listed I came across a number of other companies linked to Sascha Lopez, some of which are, alas, no longer with us. Among this group we find Fone Venture Ltd, Incorporated 10 May 2010 but by 1 July 2010 Lopez was gone, resigned, but he must have had second thoughts, because he was back on board 15 November 2010. Even so, early in 2011, Fone Venture Ltd was wound up. His partner in this venture, each of them holding one Ordinary share, was Aaron Paul Trevallion.

Moving on, we come to SwanseaIT Ltd, Incorporated 17 May 2011 with, again, Lopez and Trevallion each having a single share. June 2016 saw the arrival as directors of Rebecca Elizabeth Parkin, Kieran John Davies and Robert Paul Harris. These are names we encounter on Lopez’ Linkedin profile, having worked for the Conservative Party during the 2015 election campaign. SwanseaIT was wound up 30 November 2016.

The next company was MediaIO Ltd, Incorporated 11 June 2013 and without submitting any accounts or other documentation the company was struck off by January 2015. The two directors, each with a single share, were of course Lopez, but also Ignacio Lopez, or Ignacio Lopez-McGarry. Now things get a little confusing.

Because on 13 February 2015 Lopez Incorporated a company named Media IO Ltd, obviously a slightly different name to MediaIO Ltd, and of course a different company number. There was just one share, and it was held by Sascha Lopez. On 29 July 2016 the name was changed to the grand-sounding The Lopez Group Ltd, but it’s another company formed by Sascha Lopez that does absolutely nothing, or at least, nothing that is ever declared to Companies House.

Coming up to date we have Endgame Cafe Ltd, Incorporated 12 January 2016. This is something of a departure for Lopez, because as the name suggests, we are now in the realm of ‘unlicensed restaurants and cafes’. But again, there seems to be no activity, with the only document filed being a Confirmation Statement on 11 January 2017 confirming that Sascha Lopez holds the only share.

Finally, we come to Direct Market Solutions Ltd, an unusual company for Lopez to be involved with, partly because it’s been going for more than ten years, and partly because it actually seems to do business. So it’s no surprise to learn that Lopez has only recently joined, 25 August 2016 to be exact. The shares held by the former directors, John Wayne Lewis and Yvonne Gillian McGarry have now been transferred to Lopez. (Some connection, surely, with Ignacio Lopez-McGarry?)

These are all the companies listed if you follow the link I supplied above, but there is one more, and this is really curious. The name of the company is Inter Transit Group Ltd. It was Incorporated 28 July 2016 and under ‘Nature of Business’ we read, ‘Other transportation support activities’. Another departure for Sascha Lopez.

But what is really strange is the share issue. In all the other companies we’ve looked at it’s been a case of one share per director, but with this company, where Lopez is the sole director, he holds no less than 10,000 shares!

Why 10,000 shares for a one-man band? Are there plans for this company? Maybe others involved that we don’t know about? Let me stress that this is not a shares tip, but I strongly suggest that – unless I’ve put the kibosh on it – this is a company worth watching.

There may of course be a perfectly innocent explanation, so I’m open to suggestions as to why there are 10,000 shares issued for Inter Transit Group Ltd.

Sascha Lopez is clearly an interesting young man. Equally clear is that he’s committed to the Conservative cause . . . whatever that might be nowadays. For as recently as May he stood for the party in the council elections, for the Pontardawe ward of Neath Port Talbot council. (Yes, I know, Pontardawe is in the Swansea Valley.)  He didn’t win.

I suspect that the Kieran John Davies who stood with him is the same Kieran John Davies we encountered on Lopez’ Linkedin profile and as a director of SwanseaIT Ltd.

There’s no question that Lopez was working for the Conservative Party with his call centre in Neath, as he admits to having done in 2015. Given that there may have been a hundred people working there, it’s reasonable to ask who paid their wages. Was it the Conservative Party? If not, then who, because I doubt if Lopez has that kind of money.

Something else that came out of the Channel 4 News report was that the Neath call centre was concentrating – certainly on polling day – on Welsh marginal seats, so were there similar operations in England and Scotland?

One thing I’m sure of, there’s a lot more to be learnt about this call centre, and the man who ran it. Here are four questions to be getting on with:

  1. Who or what is Blue Telecoms, the company of which Lopez has been CEO since May 2011, and why is it not registered with Companies House?
  2. Why do Sascha Lopez’ companies seem to nose-dive so soon after taking off? Is this by accident or design?
  3. Who paid for the Neath call centre?
  4. Why does one-man band Inter Transit Group Ltd need 10,000 shares?

As usual, answers on a post card please, and the lucky winner gets to take Jac out on a Malbec-filled evening to remember. Somebody has to be lucky!

♦ end ♦

UPDATE 25.06.2017: Sascha Lopez is indeed an interesting character, and more information has come to light that fills out the picture but also presents us with more questions.

You’ll remember that I wondered why I couldn’t find anything on the Companies House website for Blue Telecoms, well one source pointed me to the CH document which tells us that SwanseaIT was trading as Blue Telecoms. The problem here is that SwanseaIT was wound up 21 November 2016, yet Blue Telecoms was still operating during the general election earlier this month.

So maybe Blue Telecoms was transferred to some other company. But I cannot find any other company with which Lopez is connected that claims to ‘T/A Blue Telecoms’. Which could mean that Blue Telecoms exists in a void (and here I can’t resist adapting Djilas), ‘the void of its own non-existence’. Which would make Blue Telecoms illegal.

I am indebted to Brychan for digging out the fact that Lopez and his mate Trevallion registered a company in Ireland, Conrad Communications Ltd. It was set up 22 September 2014 and dissolved 13 July 2016. Brychan suspects that this company, and the date of its dissolution, may be connected with the EU referendum in the UK. Anyone have any thoughts?

Another mystery we encountered was why, after a string of one-share-per-director companies, Lopez had a 10,000 share issue for the Inter Transit Group Ltd, a company set up last July with him as the sole director. This company has a website and a Facebook page, unlike some of Lopez’ other, near-invisible companies.

Another source suggested that we might find the reason for the 10,000 shares in legislation designed to encourage share distribution among a company’s employees. This is possible, but there’s no mention of employees becoming shareholders on either the website or the FB page, and the latter is used to advertise for drivers. Which makes me think there’s some other explanation.

A further comment quoted an unnamed source, “Issuing a higher quantity is also beneficial for creating the image of a substantial, credible and secure business. The nominal value of a company’s issued shares represents the liability of its owners if the business is wound up or accrues debts that is cannot pay. This is an important consideration for creditors, investors, clients and suppliers, all of whom want to feel confident about the viability and security of any business they become involved with.”

But I’m not persuaded by this, either. So I’ll ask again: Can anyone offer any suggestions as to why Sascha Lopez issued 10,000 shares for his Inter Transit Group?

What’s become clear is that Sascha Lopez and those he associates with have a cavalier attitude to company law and other forms of legislation. Perhaps they regard anything designed to protect customers, creditors and employees as ‘red tape’ holding back ambitious people like them.

Which makes them ideal Conservatives, and explains why they were running that call centre operation in Neath that may have over-stepped a number of lines, and should therefore be of interest to regulators and the Electoral Commission.