Come fly with me!

PLEASE APPRECIATE THAT I GET SENT MORE INFORMATION AND LEADS THAN I CAN USE. I TRY TO RESPOND TO EVERYONE WHO CONTACTS ME BUT I CANNOT POSSIBLY USE EVERY BIT OF INFORMATION I’M SENT. DIOLCH YN FAWR

I concluded last week’s offering with a section on Llanbedr Airfield and a promise to return to the subject. Well, here we are, and sooner than expected.

That’s because information has come to light that makes the picture clearer. Clearer but not more reassuring, certainly not for us poor buggers who – through our tribunes and the civil servants who ‘advise’ them – seem to end up funding every con man and shyster who crosses the dyke looking for easy money.

UP UP AND AWAY!

To briefly recap. There has been an airfield at Llanbedr, between Harlech and Barmouth, since WWII, but it was closed or decommissioned in 2004.

The site was bought in August 2006 by the Welsh Development Agency for £700,000. (Title document.) And then, despite having just bought the site, the Welsh Assembly Government sought a taker for a 125-year lease.

Though as the sheet below tells us, in an answer to Tory AM Darren Millar in June 2008, then minister for economy and transport, Plaid Cymru leader Ieuan Wyn Jones, is adamant that no funding has been offered to ‘sweeten’ the deal.

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The timing is significant because it was being reported in February 2008 that Welsh Ministers had awarded preferred bidder status to Kemble Airfield Estates Ltd, the operators of Kemble Airport near Cirencester. (Formerly RAF Kemble.)

As anticipated, in December 2008, the ‘Welsh Government’ gave the go-head for Kemble to take over the airfield, subject to Kemble obtaining the “relevant permissions and consents.” Initially, the Snowdonia National Park Authority refused to play ball, but in August 2011 a certificate was granted to Llanbedr Airfield Estates LLP for use of the airport to test and develop unmanned aerial vehicles.

(Developments and rumours from March 2006 are covered in jargon-laden but still interesting exchanges on this message board.)

In July 2012, Llanbedr Airfield Estates LLP finally took on a 125-year lease with the Welsh Ministers for the sum of £887,500 plus VAT. (Title document.) Funded with a loan from The Secretary of State for Defence. This company was set up in March 2008 and changed its name to Snowdonia Aerospace LLP in August 2015.

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Not only was there a loan from the Secretary of State for Defence but – and despite what Ieuan Wyn Jones had said – the ‘Welsh Government’ also chipped in. Both charges are here. Did Llanbedr Airfield Estates LLP pay anything out of its own pocket for the 125-year lease?

PER ARDUA AD ASTRA

You’ve just read mention of RAF Kemble, and as I made enquiries into the leaseholders at Llanbedr it became clear that they and their associates specialise in taking over former RAF bases. Which suggests they’re well-connected.

Two directors of Llanbedr Airfield Estates LLP who left Kemble Airfield Estates Ltd in the middle of 2012 were Lee John Paul and Charles John Mondahl. Paul had also served as company secretary.

The sign at the main gate makes no mention of ‘Aerospace’, or ‘new frontiers’, just the rather bland ‘Llanbedr Aviation Centre’. But it does show where the money’s come from – us, again! Click to enlarge

This regular taking over of former RAF bases and the like might point to the UK government and military putting work ‘off-book’ through private companies. Why would this be done? Well, I can think of a number of reasons.

First, it saves the UK government money if some mug can be persuaded to stump up the cash on the pretext of ‘creating jobs’. Mugs like the ‘Welsh Government’ and Cyngor Gwynedd.

Then there’s the advantage of it being more difficult to question the UK government when defence work is done by private companies. With the bonus that private companies don’t have to worry about Freedom of Information requests.

So use a front company, have someone else help fund it, and let it do military work without fear of being bothered by too many tiresome questions.

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Llanbedr specialises in RPAS (Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems), drones to you and me. It links with the installation at Aberporth. Though Aberporth is ‘managed’ by military contractor Qinetiq. But whatever the set-up, there is no way that drones are being developed and tested without military involvement.

Of course that doesn’t explain what possessed the WDA or ‘Welsh Government’ to a) buy something we didn’t need and b) then pay someone to lease it. Two outlays of cash Wales could not afford.

Though as I suggest in the introduction, my guess is they were cajoled or bullied into this absurd deal by their masters in London.

FORMATION FLYING

Now it’s all going to get a bit tricky as we try to figure out who owns what and how assorted entities are related. So pay attention at the back there!

As we’ve seen, the title document tells us the Llanbedr site was leased to Llanbedr Airfield Estates LLP, which is now Snowdonia Aerospace LLP. Then October 2019 saw the creation of Snowdonia Aerospace Estates LLP.

Snowdonia Aerospace LLP has a number of partners (for this is a Limited Liability Partnership not a company), while the new outfit has just two, these being Lee John Paul of Dorset and Putney Investments Ltd of the Isle of Man.

Both Paul and Putney are also partners in the original outfit, Snowdonia Aerospace, but there Putney Investments Ltd gives an address in Queensland, Australia. As I mentioned in the previous post, there seem to be quite a few companies under the ‘Putney’ umbrella (and we’ll be looking at another one in just a minute).

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Looking at the Putney Investments registered in Hampshire we see that there are two directors found under the ‘People’ tab, Cromring Ltd and Mike Cole. That’s Mike Cole of Tenerife, or possibly Hampshire.

Though it’s not that simple – is it ever? – because there are three Companies House entries for Cromring Ltd. Here they are, together with who and what’s filed where we would normally expect to find directors listed.

Plus – as a special treat! – who and what’s listed for the entities linked to each of the Cromring entries. Use the links to make better sense of it.

Cromring 1/ Michael Eric Cole (Sec), David William Ward, Michael Cole, Lapcrest Ltd. Lapcrest Ltd: Cromring Ltd. So this one is a closed circle.

Amazingly, Companies House tells us that this Cromring Ltd is a dormant company!

Cromring 2/ Estate Utilities Ltd: Michael Eric Cole (Sec), Lee John Paul, Cromring Ltd: Estate Utilities Ltd. Another closed circle.

Cromring 3/ Ocean Park Investments Ltd Putney Investments Ltd, Lapcrest Ltd. A third closed circle.

There are other companies in this network, but I’ve used Cromring to explain the problems faced by anyone trying to disentangle this web of interlocked individuals and companies.

Maybe a better comparison would be a cave system with dozens of entrances, tunnels and caverns; where money goes into one company or LLP and emerges from some other part of the network many miles away. Or just gets lost.

Here are some of the companies in the network, all cwtched up together in Hampshire. I’m intrigued by Spaceport UK Ltd. Sole director, Michael Cole . . . resident of Australia. Nothing like ambition, eh!

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An entity not yet mentioned, but with six outstanding charges against it, is Compass Point Estates LLP. The partners here are: Lee Paul, Gillian Paul, Ocean Park Investments Ltd, and Putney Investments Ltd . . . the one in Queensland.

While rooting around I also came across yet another RAF connection. It was reported in April last year that the site of RAF Upwood in Cambridgeshire was to be sold to developers. Ocean Park Investments Ltd controls Upwood Business Park Ltd.

Providing further proof that the links between the MoD and the people who’ve taken over Llanbedr airfield are long and extensive.

FLYING DOWN TO RIO

Seeing as Putney in its various guises can be found from Queensland to the Isle of Man maybe we shouldn’t be surprised to find Putney Capital Management in Latin America.

This article suggests the company deals in areas that some might regard as asset-stripping. Unpalatable as most of us might find this, it pales into insignificance when we consider other possibilities.

Because Putney turned up in the Panama Papers. For those unfamiliar with the Panama Papers they are, “an unprecedented leak of 11.5m files from the database of the world’s fourth biggest offshore law firm, Mossack Fonseca“.

Here’s the link to Putney in Caracas, capital of the socialist paradise of Venezuela, where there must be much to attract asset strippers. (But I’m not here to score cheap political points, you know me.)

Click here to see the Putney Investment ‘node’ that links the Caracas address with a more secretive  address in Panama, and which lists as the ‘intermediary’ a Martin Lustgarten.

Click to enlarge

And here’s the ‘node’ for Martin Lustgarten, an Austrian-Venezuelan, who seems to flit between Caracas, Panama and Miami. Some believe Martin is just a guy who deals in very expensive old watches. Others say he launders money for big drugs cartels.

Whatever the truth of these allegations, the Panama Papers make clear that Martin Lustgarten is involved with Putney in the tax haven of Panama, which doesn’t do Putney’s reputation any favours.

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And as we know, Putney is heavily involved in Llanbedr airfield. It’s a partner in both the lessee, Snowdonia Aerospace LLP, and also the new LLP set up last October, Snowdonia Aerospace Estates LLP.

The address Putney Investments Ltd gives to Snowdonia Aerospace Estates LLP is 8 Mount Pleasant, Douglas, IoM IM1 2PM. This address appears in the Panama Papers.

ON A WING AND A PRAYER

I’m going to end with a few questions for the self-styled ‘Welsh Government’, Cyngor Gwynedd, and anybody else who might feel inclined to proffer an answer.

  • Why would any Welsh governmental body need to get involved with Llanbedr Airfield when it must have been obvious that the MoD had tenants lined up?
  • In other words, why couldn’t the MoD have leased the place directly to Lee Paul et al?
  • Then, having bought a site it had no use for, why did the ‘Welsh Government’ compound its incompetence by giving money to those mentioned above to lease the site, especially after Ieuan Wyn Jones had stated there would be no such payment?
  • Seeing as a great deal of Welsh money has been donated to those now running Llanbedr Airfield what has been the return in jobs for local people? (And I mean local, not those who many now be living in the area.)
  • Talking of money, how much has been given by the ‘Welsh Government’ and Cyngor Gwynedd to Snowdonia Aerospace LLP, or spent on infrastructure and in other ways to benefit that group?
  •  Given the reports listed in my previous piece on Llanbedr are the ‘Welsh Government’ and Cyngor Gwynedd satisfied with the way the lessees are managing the site?
  • Was the ‘Welsh Government’ or Cyngor Gwynedd informed of the formation of the new LLP in October 2019?
  • What is the purpose of this new LLP?
  • Given that the name Putney crops up regularly in the Llanbedr narrative, and also in the Panama Papers, does the ‘Welsh Government’ or Cyngor Gwynedd know exactly how Putney is structured and who, ultimately, controls it?
  • Given that so much Welsh public money has been invested in Llanbedr Airfield and those leasing it, what input does the ‘Welsh Government’ or Cyngor Gwynedd have in the running of the site and in the planning of its future operations?
  • Given the record of military drones in the Middle East, and the unreliability of the drones operated from Aberporth, why are the ‘Welsh Government’ and Cyngor Gwynedd so supportive of drones at Llanbedr?
  • On page 9, under ‘Future Priorities and Direction for the Zone’ of the Snowdonia Enterprise Zone Strategic Plan 2018 – 2021, produced by the ‘Welsh Government’, I read, “To continue to develop a working partnership with the site owners and key stakeholders . . . “. But surely, the ‘Welsh Government’ owns the site? And who are the “key stakeholders”?
  • Seeing as the lessees are a Limited Liability Partnership, and LLPs only need to submit the most skeletal, unaudited accounts to Companies House, do the ‘Welsh Government’ and Cyngor Gwynedd see the full accounts?
  • Given that Llanbedr is no Welsh Cape Canaveral providing jobs and spectacular launches to entertain global television audiences, was it worth the ‘Welsh Government’ and Cyngor Gwynedd investing our money in what remains a UK defence installation?

♦ end ♦

 

22 thoughts on “Come fly with me!

  1. Dafis

    Thanks Jac for that piece of investigative work.

    Amazing that a) our elected representatives and officials can’t be bothered to dig a bit deeper before selecting these individuals and organisations to “partner” in whatever grand plans they have created, or

    b) if complicit in some complicated clandestine project, why aren’t our elected representatives and their squads of officials being investigated by our “free press” that great bastion of liberty and openness ?

    Of course we know the answers in broad brush terms. This is yet another part of the ongoing process of transferring public assets and funds into private hands. These shadowy corporate entities will have been backed by global financial institutions but in the meantime they will suck repeatedly on the tit of the public purse diverting scarce resources away from those areas and projects that desperately need support.

    This is a posh class of money laundering and the likes of UK Cabinet ministers are well up for it. By now some of our humble Cynulliad ministers are also gagging for a slice of the action but are probably content with what are relatively crumbs off the big boys’ table.

    1. This is almost beyond belief. Buy something and then -literally! – pay someone to take it off your hands! This is the ‘economics’ of a colonial relationship.

  2. It is so complicated that I doubt if any Wales Assembly Member understands what they are doing with our money, but it does explain the ludicrous deluded claim recently by Rebecca Evans AM that the Welsh Government is a Government of Global influence.

    1. Maybe the problem is civil servants, answering to London.

      If there’s one thing that really needs to be devolved it’s the civil service. With a Welsh civil service prioritising Welsh interests things could improve. But as long as the ‘Welsh Government’ is ‘advised’ by civil servants answering to London and serving England’s interests then Wales will continue to be exploited.

      I don’t understand why this issue isn’t being debated.

  3. Brychan

    There are a number of tree nursery business in mid Wales which require the very type of soil found on Llanbedr airfield. I shall name a few, Dolau Hirion Fruit Trees, Gwynfor Growers, Mid Wales Trees all of whom specialise in the supply of bear root fruit trees, grafting and cultivation. There is also a major nursery and supplier of trees and shrubs to highways agency and local authorities.

    They do, however, face a prohibitive cost in expansion. The type of land that is currently uncultivated at Llanbedr. Surely, the Welsh Government should be looking to support these indigenous businesses to expand and employ more staff. They pay business rates as well as exporting product from Wales. It’s also a very environmentally desirable industry.

    To expand they have to acquire land of a type currently sitting empty at Llandedr. It was used for this purpose prior to WW2. So why is the Welsh Government and Cyngor Gwynedd dishing out this ideal acreage padded with grants to offshore businesses involved in the arms trade?

    1. Hold on, Brychan! Coming up with suggestions that might benefit Wales and Welsh people is liable to get you the old banging on the door at 4am. Benefiting the colony and the indigenes is not the purpose of colonialism.

  4. Keith Parry

    Did the Welsh Government fund the building of a new road to our Space Station? The turn in Llanbedr Village used to be very tight for HGVs.
    Off topic. Serviceable Pacer trains are arriving in Newport from the north of England and being cut up for scrap while Transport for Wales has no trains to run services on the Valley Lines.

    1. The turn-off I took on Friday was still very tight. There was talk of a Llanbedr by-pass to the west of the village that would have passed close by the airfield, but I think the plan has been dropped.

  5. Vlad the Inhaler

    Oh dear!

    Seems like one of Jac’s let’s be desperately negative about everything articles.

    There are lots of uses for drones – most of which aren’t military. There are lots of articles out there in the real world that explain what sort of devices are being developed at Llanbedr and why.

    Likewise Jac’s scorn at the space idea is equally misplaced. We now live in a world of nano satellites, not the days of melamine radios that you had to turn on 5 minutes before the news to give the valves a chance to warm up.

    Therefore his idea that spaceports are inhabited by massive Saturn 5 rockets thundering into orbit from Cape Canaveral is as old fashioned and nostalgic as his belief in Brexit.

    Cotswold airport (previously Kemble), which got a mention in the article, was bought from the Ministry of Defence by Ronan Harvey and a consortium of local businesses in March 2001.

    It is actually quite successful. It is the largest privately owned airport in the UK and is now run by Suzannah Harvey (Ronan’s daughter); and, rather disappointingly (for Jac), appears to have no links whatsoever to the UK military.

    But hey !
    Lets not spoil a good story.
    Perhaps Jac and his fan base could pool their pensions and buy it back. Then they could set up a nice coracle refurbishment unit, or a brethyn cartref recycling centre etc etc.

    Bon chance mes amis.

    1. You are a one! But let’s stick to facts.

      Of course there are many non-military uses for drones. Small ones are being bought by all sorts from terrorists to photographers to voyeurs . . . I hope you aren’t one of them! (Voyeur.) But Llanbedr is co-operating with Aberporth. The drones being tested are most definitely for military use. I used the comparison with Cape Canaveral for humorous effect. T’were a joke!

      Having failed to appreciate the old Jac humour you then managed to ignore the Panama Papers connection and, fundamentally, the fact that our wonderful ‘Welsh Government’ bought something it – and we – did not need and then, very soon afterwards, paid someone to lease what it had bought. So instead of insulting your elders and betters with trite references to ‘melamine radios'(!) address the issues.

      Shouldn’t you be in school?

      1. Wynne

        His parents will probably deprive him of pocket money when they find out what he has been inhaling. Do you think he will ever provide any helpful comment on your blog based on facts / evidence. Great bit of research again on your part Jac.

          1. Dafis

            more like nose picker ! there again if he sticks to his own nose no real harm done.

            Back to Vlad’s point about drones which is valid to a degree. However, like so many other developments in technology, military/defence applications are the main drivers with other uses following on from the initial innovation. Lots of chatter about drones delivering parcels, surveying structures etc, but right now their main “delivery” is stuff that goes bang with a terrible accuracy.

            Names of major corporates involved, like Qinetiq, is a bit of a giveaway. Look at the exhibitors at any major defence/ military/security expo and Qinetiq is usually there peddling its wares. Some of their offering is standard “off the shelf” kit but they are very keen to do a design and build to your specific requirement – Death by Design, lovely stuff.

    2. Jonesy

      Could you tell me how many satelites have been launched from Llanbedr Carnaferal ym Meirion please

    3. Brychan

      Vlad

      The Japanese are already the leaders in launching micro-satellites and they do with the CubeSats, of payload as low as 4kg. They use a very small launch vehicle from Tanegashima. A vertical launch vehicle is always better.

      There is no need to introduce friction from a winged vehicle. The size of the rocket is just proportionate to the payload. Basic physics. Horizontal launch vehicles are not efficient for ANY size payload it’s just a concept for high atmosphere military drones, a need Japan does not have. The actual ‘space centre’ on the north coast of Scotland is based on a small vertical launch vehicle similar to the Japanese.

      What’s really happening at Llanbedr?

      1. But of course ‘good news’ stories must be put out to reassure people that wonderful things of benefit to humanity are taking place at Llanbedr. Like this bit of froth about drones that deliver medicine.
        https://www.dailypost.co.uk/business/business-news/medicine-delivering-drones-developed-gwynedd-16603445

        I can see old Mrs Evans in Llan Ffestiniog waiting for her medicines to arrive when a drone flies into her garden! It would be more likely to finish the old girl off.

  6. Dafydd

    To understand what the Panama papers exposed watch the film Laundromat. It is revealing, easy to watch and even funny in places. The solicitors involved tried to get it banned. As for Aberporth (once heralded to be a passenger airport, with hotel) that ended up where it is now through clever positioning by commercial companies.

  7. Stan

    Jac you have hit on another touchy area not just here but also in the East of England. Having lived surrounded by these sites, I can say they were always an emotive subject.

    Who owned them, how could they suddenly be turned over for housing, what secret activity was taking place on ‘retired sites or runways’, why were they subject to American laws (even when retired). Also why were paper trails so difficult to follow with many blocked under the official secrets act.

    Some sites you wondered if drugs were coming in, after all they have to get them here somehow. Others that were ‘retired’ had military drones landing. Whatever, you would be treated very badly by security staff if you were stopping to look what was happening. Locals were never employed they were all rather large aggressive men who looked ex-military.

    Private planes (very expensive ones) also used them on a regular basis which left many locals laughing about the undesirables entering the country.

    We started our investigations by looking at what leases were given to the Americans at the end of WW2 (national archives) and where we saw the Govt purporting to then buy the land (or paying for the value of its development) seeking information on how they financed and justified the transaction using the FOI Act.

    Will cross reference some of our work with your notes and see if any names turn up in other sets of papers. the double dip of paying for and then financing a lease though simply doesn’t look right. We also used ‘plane spotter’ organisations to help us unravel what was happening.

  8. Dafis

    Although the climate is changing, bits to the good others not so good, some things in Wales never seem to change. It would appear that Baroness Nicky Morgan and her flunkies did little more than stick a pin in a list of worthies, or asked outright “who among this rabble is likely to do very little, but will obey orders from London blindly”. Lo and behold they settled on the eternally bidable Rhodri. Nice and easy for all parties, but adds up to sweet fuck all for Wales !

    https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-51181703 S4C’s new chairman set to be Rhodri Williams

  9. Jonesy

    Rhodri Williams – a man who played dirty on his employers twice – HTV and Tinopolis – and got sacked twice and then becomes head of Welsh media di-ddant watchdog, Ofcom Cymru
    https://paddyfrench1.wordpress.com/
    Even appointed his fancy woman (now his wife) as his deputy in a couple of very highly paid posts for by the public funds – she’s still running Ofcom Cymru. – what a rotten legacy. The wolf looking after the sheep and what a prize sheep the new head of S4c is – another Labour lackey and friend to Ann Beynon and Leighton Andrews – Owen Evans

  10. Brychan

    Here is the current energy (Kj) efficiency of modes of transportation by distance (km) on any given journey (EU in 2012), the figures are based on current occupancy of vehicle.

    https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/8/85/EffizienzLeistungFahrzeuge.png/800px-EffizienzLeistungFahrzeuge.png

    Although flying shows a slightly more efficient than driving this is because most planes have a 80% capacity utilisation whereas a car of (4seats) has a capacity utilisation of just over 25%. Obviously capacity utilisation of walking and cycling is 100%, and motorcycle (2seats) 50%, as with rail.

    I conclude that air flight is the most inefficient mode of transport per passenger per energy consumed.

    However, on a long point to point journey on a full plane a journey (eg Cardiff to Berlin) it is about as energy efficient than driving with one person in the car. Take a freind, and your twice as efficient as flying. Going by train being four times more efficient than both, at all times.

    Here is a Plaid Cymru illusion, a project that never happened.
    The evidence – from a drone.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-CGrEOwXUq4{removetoplay}

    The money for this was drained away in only six months when Plaid Cymru voted with Labour to spent all the budget on six months of subsidising Cardiff airport. Then they cut the school/Coleg Sir Gar busses.

    Future Generations, innit.

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