Afan Valley Adventure Resort – here we go again!

My intention was to start winding down this blog, spend more time with my wife, grand-children, books, Malbec . . . but things keep cropping up. That said, it’s very unlikely I shall undertake major new investigations. Diolch yn fawr.

In keeping with the promise made above, this is an update to a story I was reporting on a few years back rather than a new investigation. I’m returning to it now because there have been significant developments.

MEMORY LANE

The plan to build a big adventure park in the Afan Valley, behind Port Talbot, complete with a hotel and lodges, offering ski slopes and cycle routes, was the brainchild of self-made con man Gavin Lee Woodhouse.

At one point, maggot-munching Bore Grylls was on board, but his enthusiasm cooled, perhaps when he realised the kind of  ‘businessman’ he’d got himself involved with.

But the ‘Welsh Government’ believed every word from Woodhouse, and in addition to offering him a £500,000 grant for his Caer Rhun hotel near Llanrwst, our tribunes were ready to throw more money at him in the Afan Valley.

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Woodhouse’s empire came crashing down when investors in his properties – some of which were never built – persuaded the media to take an interest. Now, I believe, it’s in the hands of the Serious Fraud Office.

Woodhouse’s umbrella company was Northern Powerhouse Developments Ltd, but the company set up for the Afan Valley extravaganza was the imaginatively named Afan Valley Ltd.

If you click on the ‘Charges’ tab for Afan Valley you’ll see that there are two outstanding charges. One in the name of Clive Mishon, the other 360 Mi Ltd, a company owned by Mishon that is now in liquidation.

I’ve never been entirely sure where or how Mishon fits into the picture, but he was certainly on the ground before Woodhouse. We know that because in May 2013 he was a founding director of short-lived Afan Solar Ltd. Next, perhaps after learning the sun doesn’t shine all the time in Wales, he joined Afan Energy Ltd in April 2014.

Both are long since dissolved. Afan Energy, in which Mishon was a shareholder, was written off with debts of £596,391.

Though still in existence is Marcol Industrial (Afan Energy) LLP.

Let’s remind ourselves there are three land titles making up the area involved. All mentioned in the Administrator’s progress report for Afan Valley Ltd of August 20.

The first, WA519567, was bought by Afan Valley Ltd with a loan from Clive Mishon. CYM471819 was bought in the same manner. CYM60212 is owned by Clive Mishon.

The Administrator’s report suggests that Clive Mishon is an unsecured creditor and will get the money he loaned when the land is sold.

We must assume the land has been sold because of the press release put out last week by Neath Port Talbot Borough Council telling the world that the project was back on track under new management.

Though Mishon is still involved, perhaps because the project can’t proceed without the land he owns. Besides which, Mishon has associates, involved with companies registered in places that enjoy more sunshine than Wales.

NEW FACES, OLD FACES, MASKS AND DISGUISES

Having read the press release you’ll know that those who’ve taken over are said to be the Salamanca Group Ltd and Wildfox Resorts Afan Valley Ltd. Let’s start with Wildfox, where the two directors are Martin James Bellamy and Benjamin Daniel Lloyd.

The initial share issue was for 101 shares. One hundred held by Wildfox Resorts Group Ltd, formed March 16, 2021 (as Kikai Group Holdings Ltd), the other by Clive Mishon.

All 100 shares in Wildfox Resorts Group Ltd are held by Lloyd and significant control is exercised by his company, Caer Capital Ltd. Caer Capital was formed September 15.

Lloyd lives in Wales but uses as an address, 21 Ganton Street, Soho, London W1F 9BN.

Lloyd has been involved with a number of property and buy-to-rent companies since 2016, but it all looks small scale compared to what’s planned for the Afan Valley.

The main vehicle for Lloyd’s ambitions seem to be Project Three Developments Ltd, where he’s in partnership with Gareth Vaughan Morgan and Benjamin Peter Hugh Wells.

This company claims ‘tangible assets’ of some four million pounds, almost certainly property bought with loans from the Development Bank of Wales.

The most recent company is Wells Lloyd Ltd, formed as recently as June this year. Has this new company been cobbled together to cash in on the Afan Valley bonanza?

Strengthening the local connection is another Lloyd company, Kikai RGI Ltd, where the other director is Lewis Ashleigh Peach, who gives a Caerffili address. Most of the shares (70%) are held by Wildfox Resorts Group Ltd, with Peach holding the remainder through his Arete Group Holdings Ltd. Arete was formed March 16, 2021.

But is Lloyd really the man behind the revived Afan Valley project? He’s certainly not mentioned in the press release from Neath Port Talbot council.

Yet ownership of Wildfox Resorts Afan Valley Ltd, the company mentioned in the NPT press release, seems to trace back through Wildfox Resorts Group Ltd and Caer Capital Ltd to Benjamin Daniel Lloyd.

To give you some idea of the size of the project, here’s the plan submitted with the planning application from Gavin Woodhouse’s Afan Valley Ltd.

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Now let’s turn to the Bellamy-Salamanca angle.

We find a host of Salamanca companies, all based at 3 Burlington Gardens in London’s Mayfair. The link between them is Martin James Bellamy.

An interesting name I keep seeing in connection with Salamanca is Lord David Triesman. A very wealthy man.

Another name shared by a number of companies is Rocksteady.

Where Lloyd crops up again as a director of Rocksteady Resorts Group Ltd of 21 Ganton Street, Soho. This company was formed on March 17, 2021, which is appropriate as another of the directors is Irishman Paul Christopher Baker. The third director is Martin James Bellamy. All shares are held by Rocksteady Group Ltd, formed March 16, 2021.

Another Rocksteady company was Rocksteady Resorts Ltd, launched March 11, 2020. Also interesting because the two directors were Baker and Peter Macandless Mundell Moore.

You see Moore in the group photo above. He was the expert brought in by Gavin Woodhouse to give his project credibility. Moore is invariably referred to in media reports as ‘the man who brought Center Parcs to the UK’.

Moore left Rocksteady Resorts March 9, this year, and the company was dissolved July 6.

The three directors at Rocksteady Group Ltd are Bellamy, Baker and Lloyd. The 200 shares are split equally between Set in Stone Holdings Ltd and CLLP Ltd. Both give London addresses.

One of the four CLLP directors is Hossam AlSaady, of Saudi Arabia(?). The others are Lloyd, Bellamy, and Anthony John Rowland. AlSaady runs Above Wealth LLP with Rowland. A company that helps the über rich find a home for their money.

Until 3 April, 2021, Set in Stone was using as its address, The White House, St. Mary’s Well, Bay Road, Swanbridge, Penarth CF64 5UJ. It files as a dormant company, showing just a single £1 share, presumably held by Paul Baker who was the only director until 17 March, 2021, when he was joined by Laura Lynn Baker, an American resident in Wales.

The shares in CLLP Ltd are held by MJB Capital (Lancelot Place) Ltd, 100 B shares; and Lancelot Developments Ltd, 325 A shares. All shares in MJB (Lancelot Place ) Ltd are held by MJB Capital Ltd. Lancelot Developments is controlled by Dr Chander Kanta Sabharwal and Dr Narinder Nath Sabharwal.

At MJB Capital, serving as directors, we find Bellamy and Ms Darina Kogan, a US lawyer now resident in England. Though she is Russian by birth.

This very recent item from the Daily Telegraph tells us that Mrs Bellamy – as we must now call her – is the daughter of Russian oligarch Valery Kogan.

So, I would guess that Martin Bellamy is, as reports tell, the driving force behind the revived Afan Valley project. Lloyd, Baker, et al make up the supporting cast.

Martin Bellamy

If nothing else, Bellamy knows billionaires who could easily finance the Afan Valley Adventure Resort. Among them, his business partner, and his father-in-law.

We are talking serious money here, and individuals with very powerful friends and allies, up to and including Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin.

SKATING ON THIN ICE

But there are other companies in the shadows. One being Afan Valley Resort Ltd, formed March 19, 2021. The two directors are Baker and Bellamy. The shares are all held by Rocksteady Resorts Group Ltd. The address is 21 Ganton Street, Soho.

There’s also Afan Valley Resort Management Ltd, Incorporated March 23, 2021. The two directors are, again, Baker and Bellamy. The single share is owned by Afan Valley Resort Ltd. Also using the Ganton Street address.

Another company bringing together Bellamy and Lloyd, and another company formed in March of this year, is Kogan Bellamy Lloyd Ltd.

It might be worth having a look at a couple of other companies Baker has been involved in, interesting for the American involvement, though also a bit worrying.

First, there’s E-Ventus Energy Ltd, with its registered address at the White House in Penarth. The other directors in this company were fellow Irishman John Connolly, who was resident in the USA, and US citizen John Spence, also resident in the USA.

The filed documents show an interesting story. The directors folded the company in February 2018, perhaps in an attempt to escape their debts. The creditors appealed to the High Court and the company was restored to the register. You don’t often see this kind of document; it’s worth reading.

The accounts for E-Ventus Energy are long overdue at Companies House. I wonder how much they owe?

Another strange company Baker was involved with was Deeside Hockey Ltd. The address given was 3rd Floor, 5 Temple Square, Temple Street, Liverpool, L2 5RH, but we can be fairly certain that the name referred to Deeside in Flintshire. In fact, there is a Deeside Dragons Ice Hockey Club playing in Queensferry.

Deeside Hockey was Incorporated August 5, 2015, first gazetted November 1, 2016, and finally dissolved January 17, 2017.

There were three directors at the start; Baker – resident in Wales – plus two resident in the USA, Wayne Gary James Scholes, and Trevor Damon Suelze. Baker pulled out September 14, 2015 and was replaced by American Collin Zito.

All the shares in Deeside Hockey Ltd were held by Red Hockey Ltd, since renamed Telford Ice Sports Ltd. And what a story we have here!

Launched in August, 2013 the first director was Scholes. Suelze joined in October. Baker joined in February, 2015. All using the Liverpool address.

Other directors came and went, and shares were issued, but this company was soon in trouble and eventually, after a lengthy process, it was dissolved in June this year.

The liquidator’s reports refer to ‘a number of questionable transactions’, and the company owed creditors almost half a million pounds.

In a Companies House Return of February 2015 we are told that all 1000 shares in (then) Red Hockey Ltd were owned by Really Epic Dog Ltd, operating out of the same Liverpool address with Scholes, Suelze, and Zito, as directors.

This company has creditors to whom it owes £4.9m. Most of this is explained by (allegedly?) transferring money between related companies run by the same directors.

At the same address were also Really Epic Dog Holdings Ltd, Really Epic Dog Publishing Ltd, and Gods knows how many other companies with no visible means of support.

So who are these Americans or US residents with whom Baker is associated? (For Suelze may be Canadian, and Scholes British.)

From someone else who was briefly a director of Red Hockey Ltd, South African resident Servaas Hendrik Theron, we have an address: General Counsel, 5225 Wiley Post Way, Suite 150, Salt Lake City, Utah 84116.

Googling that address turned up Red Touch Media and Wayne Scholes. There’s even a Wikipedia entry. Collin Zito is Chief Operations Officer at Red Touch.

Red Touch Media is now Liverpool Digital Media Ltd. The latest accounts show a company heavily in debt.

TRYING TO MAKE SENSE OF IT

We would appear to have a number of potential sources for the money to re-launch and complete the Afan Valley Adventure Resort.

Martin Bellamy has his business partner Lord Triesman, and his father-in-law Valery Kogan. Either of them could finance this project from their small change. But if one of them was funding this project why do we see such a supporting cast?

And why so many Afan Valley companies?

And let’s not forget the Saudi link provided by Hossam AlSaady. Or if not a link to Saudi Arabia, then to one or more partners of his Above Wealth LLP. One of which is Swiss fund managers Gottex.

Then, we have the intriguing connection, via Liverpool, with the USA and, more specifically, the state of Utah.

What are we to make of Scholes, Suelze, and Zito, and their involvement in Deeside Hockey, the liquidator’s reference to ‘questionable transactions’, the unpaid creditors, and the labyrinth of linked companies all owing each other money?

Given their forays into the leisure business I would be disappointed to learn that these people are in any way involved at Afan Valley.

The connection between them and the resurrected Afan Valley venture is of course the Irishman, Paul Christopher Baker.

Baker is very much a player now at Afan Valley.

We find him at Afan Valley Resort Ltd with Martin Bellamy. The duo are together again at Afan Valley Resort Management Ltd. The duet becomes a threesome when Lloyd joins them at Rocksteady Resorts Group Ltd. The three then do an encore at Rocksteady Group Ltd.

All four companies formed 16 – 23 March, 2021.

And let’s not forget dissolved Rocksteady Resorts Ltd, where we would have found Baker and Peter Moore. Formed in March 2020 and put down a year later, with the name carried on by others.

Though I was struck by one very curious Companies House filing for this company, which I reproduce below.

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Was Paul Baker formerly known as Paul Morris, and did he change his name? Or did whoever registered the company with Companies House not know Baker’s name?

Whatever the answer, the name given on the company’s Certificate of Incorporation is definitely Paul Christopher Morris.

Baker’s association with the Utah Scousers and their Deeside Hockey, plus his role with E-Ventus, the company the High Court restored, might suggest he has a somewhat ‘cavalier’ attitude to business.

But what about the boys from round by ‘ere, like?

Well, Benjamin Lloyd’s Wildfox Resorts Afan Valley Ltd may be the real deal and his route to fame and fortune. Or it may be just a distraction.

His mate, Lewis Peach, is the other director of Kikai RGI Ltd. (Another company formed in March, 2021.) But a few years ago Peach was running a gym in Caerffili.

In the Caerphilly Business Forum Awards for 2017 we read: ‘Entrepreneur of the Year – sponsored by Coleg y Cymoedd: Lewis Peach – Peak Performance Fitness Solutions.’ (Did you know we have no word in Welsh for the English term entrepreneur?)

But Lewis is a Renaissance Man, cos when he’s not pumping iron we find him at Pure Structured Finance. This company was formed in December 2019, and according to Companies House its address is opposite McDonald’s in Llanishen. Yet the website I just linked to says it operates out of 3 Burlington Gardens, London, W1S 3EP.

And if that address sounds familiar then that’s because it’s where we find Martin Bellamy’s Salamanca empire.

Wheels within wheels. So many connections. Pathways and dead-ends. No wonder old Jac is getting quite dizzy – and alcohol plays no part. Honest!

A FEW QUESTIONS WITH WHICH TO CONCLUDE

These questions are addressed to Neath Port Talbot Borough Council and the self-styled ‘Welsh Government’ on behalf of those still interested in how Wales is mis-ruled.

  • Do you know who is really behind this revived project, and where the money is coming from?
  • Why do you think this project needs so many companies?
  • How would NPT Council and the ‘Welsh Government’ feel about the project funding coming from Russia or Saudi Arabia?
  • There are persons with questionable business records linked with the project. What are their roles?
  • Will those now behind the project follow the discredited Gavin Woodhouse model of selling shares in the lodges and the hotel rooms?
  • Have those behind the project requested grants from the ‘Welsh Government’, or loans from the Development Bank of Wales?
  • How much public money will be spent on infrastructure – roads, etc – for the Afan Valley Adventure Resort?
  • What measures will NPT Council and the ‘Welsh Government’ put in place to ensure that contracts are placed with local firms and the better jobs allocated to local people?
  • Given that the Afan Valley Adventure Resort will mean tens of thousands more cars travelling from England into Wales, and back, every year, how does this square with the ‘Welsh Government’s ambition for Wales to single-handedly save the planet?
  • Will there be an extra charge for chalets and hotel rooms offering uninterrupted views of the surrounding wind turbines?

Labour politicians in Neath Port Talbot and Corruption Bay may be desperate to claim more ‘investment’, but rest assured, boys and girls, I shall be keeping a jaundiced eye on the Afan Valley Adventure Resort.

Because I’m sure there’ll be more to tell you in the months ahead.

UPDATE 20.10.2021: The Western Mail published an article this morning that was clearly designed to boost the project and make it clear that those now involved had no connection with the misdeeds of Gavin Lee Woodhouse.

It further informed us that the funding is coming from ‘Octopus Real Estate’. But I doubt it. For this is a one-woman company formed in April to buy a property in Wiltshire.

Presumably it refers to one of these pension fund Limited Partnerships, Octopus Commercial Real Estate Debt Fund II and Octopus Commercial Real Estate Debt Fund III.

But which one?

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Gavin Lee Woodhouse, the ‘Wolf of Wharf Street’ – you were warned!

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

This was supposed to be a ‘quickie’ while I await a promised guest post on developments among the wind farms of deepest Powys. But as the information mounted up . . .

Most of you will be aware by now that Gavin Lee Woodhouse, who has a number of business interests in Wales, came under critical scrutiny last week from ITV News and the Guardian. He did not emerge smelling of roses.

Eventually the ‘Welsh’ media caught up with the story, here’s the BBC’s version and here’s WalesOnline’s contribution. (Note the positive spin in the headline.)

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Now I don’t wish to be too critical, but Woodhouse has been a busy boy in Wales for a number of years, so it’s not unreasonable to have expected an investigation into his ‘innovative’ business practices to have been done on this side of the border.

Pity the country with a ‘media’ that is nothing but a relayer of press hand-outs, a conveyor of soporific ‘human interest’ stories, and a disseminator of its masters’ propaganda; leaving an ancient nation to scratch around for the truth.

Come scratch with Jac.

Perhaps the first time Gavin Lee Woodhouse swam into our collective consciousness was when, while negotiating to buy Plas Glynllifon, in Llandwrog, south of Caernarfon, he announced his intention to rename the old pile ‘Wynnborn’. This declaration met with the kind of response that might greet ‘Four Green Fields’ being sung at Ibrox.

Plas Glynllifon, image courtesy of North Wales Live. Click to enlarge

To familiarise you with what Woodhouse has been up to in Wales here are a few of my offerings: English Tourism in the Colony of Wales (18.04.2017); a brief mention in YMCA England(andwales) (23.04.2017); Bits & Pieces (27.04.2017); Colonial Investments (23.07.2017); Updates 12.12.2017; Weep for Wales (13.06.2018); Friends old & new (28.01.2019).

Now let’s get up to date with the boy’s adventures.

HOW IT WORKS

Woodhouse’s business model is, essentially, selling shares in property he owns, or plans to build. If it’s a hotel then you buy a room and then rent it to Woodhouse. If it’s a care home or a residential home, then it’s a similar system but with the guest obviously staying for longer.

The attraction of this system for Woodhouse is that he can buy a run-down hotel cheaply, maybe at auction, and then by selling off rooms individually he can quickly recoup what he paid, and more, from ‘investors’.

For investors, high returns are promised. There is often a guarantee that Woodhouse will buy back your room after a certain period at the price you paid for it, or more.

This is the model employed at his Neuadd Caer Rhun hotel in the Conwy Valley, for which he received a ‘Welsh Government’ grant of £500,000 less than two years ago.

Neuadd Caer Rhun. Image courtesy of North Wales Live. Click to enlarge.

It makes a certain sense, but as with buying a timeshare, a great deal depends on the honesty of the vendor. And this leads us on to the allegations made last week.

WHERE IT ALL WENT WRONG, ALLEGEDLY

In a nutshell, Woodhouse has taken money from investors for projects that do not exist. Or to put it another way, projects that are promised but never materialise. With much of the money paid into these projects disappearing after being shuffled around in the network of companies Woodhouse controls.

Explained here in this excellent graphic from the Guardian.

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As we see, £5.6m of the £14.8m investors have paid into the three non-existent care homes and £8.2m from connected companies made its way to MBI Consulting (UK) Ltd. This gives a total of £13.8m going into a company now in administration.

According to Companies House Woodhouse ceased to be a director of MBI 31 January 2016, but another document lodged with Companies House and dated 21 July 2016 makes clear that Woodhouse remains the majority shareholder. A further document of 08.08.2018 confirms that Woodhouse is the person exercising ‘significant control’. (All CH documents can be tracked from here.)

From MBI Consulting (UK) Ltd £1.2m went as a loan to Woodhouse himself while the rest, £12.7m, appears to have slipped through the gaps in the floorboards.

(Though the figures used are probably the latest available at Companies House. By now, all of the investors’ money might have headed south.)

AFAN VALLEY ADVENTURE RESORT

Perhaps the first time most people in the south heard of Gavin Lee Woodhouse was when, in April 2017, news broke of a tourism venture in the Afan valley behind Port Talbot.

The WalesOnline article had lots of ‘artist’s impressions’ and a video of the ‘Affan’ valley in the company of Paul Gardiner, managing director of the Bear Grylls Survival Academy. For that piss-drinking exhibitionist has been involved from the start.

A third principal was soon roped in in the form of Peter Moore, ‘the man who brought Center Parcs to Britain’. Whether that is to be regarded as an achievement I leave to others to decide.

One thing of which there can be no doubt is the ‘Welsh Government’s enthusiastic support for the Afan valley venture. The photo below comes from the website of Woodhouse’s Northern Powerhouse Developments and it shows ‘Welsh Government’ representatives meeting Woodhouse and Moore on the site of the planned ‘resort’ in April 2017.

Hustlers meet their ‘marks’. Click to enlarge.

As I hinted earlier, one of the problems in trying to make sense of Woodhouse’s business dealings is the sheer number of companies involved. A maze set up to deter the casually curious and make things difficult even for serious investigators.

Undaunted, I did a wee bit more digging, but stopped short of getting obsessively forensic.

One curiosity I uncovered was two parcels of land that seem not to connect with the 327 acres handed over for his ‘resort’ by Natural Resources Wales (i.e. ‘Welsh Government’).

These can be found under the ‘Charges’ against Afan Valley Ltd. One is an elongated triangle of land alongside the A4107 heading east out of Cymmer, valued at £25,000. Of more interest will be the other land, Caerau Park, valued at 250,000.

Companies House tells us that Afan Valley Ltd was born in April 2016 as Caerau Parc Ltd – with Woodhouse as sole director – and it changed its name in February 2017. Which means it was set up over a year before the Afan valley project became known about.

It’s reasonable to assume therefore that Caerau Park Ltd was set up for a purpose other than the Afan Valley resort.

The sliver of roadside land at Cymmer is owned by Afan Valley Ltd, and the lender is 360 Mi Ltd. The larger plot, Caerau Park, is on the slopes of Mynydd Caerau, to the east of the village of the same name in the Llynfi valley.

Image courtesy of OS via Land Registry. Unfortunately there’s no title plan available at the LR. Click to enlarge.

The owner of Caerau Park, according to the Land Registry, is Ontaris Resources Inc of the British Virgin Islands; but Companies House tells us – with regard to the charge – that the ‘Persons entitled’ is Clive Mishon. Clive Mishon is also the sole director and shareholder of 360 Mi Ltd, Incorporated 5 September 2017.

So who is Clive Mishon, who appears to hold both charges against Afan Valley Ltd? There’s not a lot of information available for him, here’s one of the few pieces I found. All we can say with certainty is that he’s an investor. (But not the kind of ‘investor’ who’d buy a room from Woodhouse.)

Given that the Caerau Park land has been owned by Ontaris since 2008, and Woodhouse set up Caerau Park Ltd in April 2016 – with the charge covering the transfer of ownership not taken out until December 2017 – was Woodhouse initially working for or with Ontaris?

And was Caerau Park the original site for the ‘resort’? For Mynydd Caerau is now part of the Llynfi Renewable Energy Park (wind turbines) run by John Laing.

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Whatever the answer, by the early part of 2017 attention had obviously switched to the Afan valley. Borne out by Caerau Park Ltd becoming Afan Valley Ltd in February, with this followed by the public announcements involving the ‘Welsh Government’ just months later.

What explains this shift from the Llynfi valley to the Afan valley?

Perhaps the ‘Welsh Government’ can explain how the Afan Valley Adventure Resort first saw the light of day. For example, whose idea was it? Who made the first approach? Did the ‘Welsh Government’ entice Woodhouse from the Llynfi to the Afan?

And while they’re trawling through the files and the memory banks maybe someone can also explain why Caerau Park, ex-NCB land that passed to the ‘Welsh Government’ after devolution, was sold to a tax haven company in 2008.

Finally, maybe someone familiar with the upper reaches of the Afan and Llynfi valleys might have information I’ve missed, or information that is not in the public domain.

SCAMS AND FRAUDS?

Let’s return to Gavin Woodhouse’s business methods, which some might view as something similar to timeshare. And as we all know, timeshare was a largely unregulated sphere in foreign jurisdictions where perhaps the only way to avoid being fleeced was to rely on word of mouth recommendations from people you trusted.

Tangent alert! (As in, going off on one): A reason for timeshare being so risky was that a good slice of the business was in the hands of serious criminals, and used for money laundering. A few months ago, someone with experience in timeshare in the bad old days gave me this explanation.

“You see you could buy a week without anyone questioning anything and it was perfectly legal not to have to prove who you are – you just handed over what was then an average £25,000 for a week and signed a single sheet of paper. Now both these guys would have typically 120 units in a single development so they could handle £132 million through these units – that money was then cleaned in the system. Then every year you paid maintenance – another £600 or £3.2 million per site.

“Then the second spin would start in the auction and second hand market which was often when moms and pops took a hit. Even then none of it matters because under all these agreements if a site falls into a bad state then it goes back to the owners – who refurbish and start again. So it’s a perpetual sausage machine to clean money and they can call it what they want now i.e. points etc but its still the same thing.”

Worrying, isn’t it?

Now I’m not for one minute suggesting that Gavin Woodhouse is involved in that kind of thing, but selling individual rooms of hotels, and cabins at resorts, could be seen as a variation on a theme.

Because what’s to stop an unscrupulous operator selling the same room or cabin to any number of different people and then legging it with the money? Also, and unlike timeshare, there’s the advantage in this method that the investor doesn’t get to stay in his or her investment.

And when the property isn’t even off the drawing board – as with Woodhouse’s three care homes in north west England – then there’s no outlay whatsoever. All you do is sit there and let the money roll in!

Courtesy of the Guardian. Click to enlarge.

Even if we give Woodhouse the benefit of the doubt, and accept that he meant to deliver on his promises, the whole thing has still gone tits up for one reason or another.

But there’s a further worry with Woodhouse’s operations linked to the sudden and impressive increases in the valuations of his properties. As the Guardian put it . . .

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Now that is impressive.

Unfortunately, I could find nothing for the Fishguard Bay hotel on the Land Registry website, and even when I focused in on the LR map I got a ‘too many’ message. Which could mean that there are a number of titles on the site following the sale of the rooms.

But would this account for the massive increase in the claimed valuation of the hotel? I don’t think so, after all, it’s still the same building.

Suspicious increases in property values like this can often be explained by mortgage fraud, where a property’s valuation is increased in order to pull down more in mortgages and loans, which of course are then not repaid.

(Those who followed Woodhouse at Plas Glynllifon, Paul and Rowena Williams, were heavily involved in mortgage fraud, even ‘selling’ properties to themselves! Just type ‘Weep for Wales’ into the Search box on top of the sidebar to catch up with this gripping saga.)

But it doesn’t seem to matter, it’s almost as if this is not real money.

It’s the black economy and it still buys big houses and Range Rovers, it pays for private schooling, and contributes to consumer spending. The UK government and the police know about it but nobody’s going to interfere unless the media takes an interest.

Which is why things are now looking so bleak for the Wolf of Wharf Street.

HOW DID HE GET AWAY WITH IT FOR SO LONG?

I don’t want to say, ‘I told you so’ . . . but I told you so. And I know that plenty of people in Cardiff Bay read my blog . . . if only to mutter ‘bastard’ under their breath while reaching for the voodoo doll.

But even before he appeared on my radar there were doubts about Gavin Woodhouse and his business methods. Read this 2015 article from the Bureau of Investigative Journalism.

Did no one in Cardiff Bay carry out the simplest checks before rolling out the red carpet for Woodhouse? And the red carpet was most certainly rolled out, not only in the Afan but also up north where, as we’ve seen, the boy wonder was given a £500,000 grant by the ‘Welsh Government’ for Neuadd Caer Rhun hotel.

Reproduced courtesy of the Bureau of Investigative Journalism. Click to enlarge.

Where, not only was Woodhouse selling rooms in the hotel, he also wanted to build cabins or lodges in the grounds which, again, were to be sold off to investors.

Has he received any other little ‘favours’ while he’s been in Wales? Because he certainly likes Wales: he has at least six hotels, then there’s the Afan Valley Adventure Resort (for now), land at Caerau . . .

Or is it just that Wales is an easy touch, and that’s why we see the Woodhouses, and the Williams, and all the other crooks and shysters moving into our country?

But of course, it’s not us, not you and me, who are fooled by these people – it’s those running Wales, those who claim to know better than us, they are the ones who keep making these mistakes. Over and over again.

Or are they ‘mistakes’. It’s worth asking because is anybody really this stupid, or this incompetent?

A PRICE TO PAY?

If I was an investor who had lost money in the Afan Valley Adventure Resort or any other Gavin Woodhouse enterprise (in Wales or in England) I would claim compensation from the self-styled ‘Welsh Government’.

I suggest this course of action because Woodhouse might have used the Caer Rhun grant, and the welcome he received in the southern hillsides, to establish his bona fides in order to gull investors.

But simply by being so accommodating towards Gavin Woodhouse, and giving him our money, the ‘Welsh Government’ was telling the world that here was a man to do business with.

Creditors seeking pecuniary redress should in the first instance contact: Ken Skates AM, Cabinet Secretary for Economy, Infrastructure and Skills, Welsh Government, Cathays Park, Cardiff CF10 3NQ.

Or if you’re in the vicinity, then pop in. Tell him Jac sent you.

♦ end ♦

UPDATE 04.07.2019: It’s all fall down.

At a court hearing today three of Woodhouse’s companies, including Afan Valley Ltd, were placed instantly into interim administration. Judge Sally Barber said: “This appears to be a thoroughly dishonest business model and a shameful abuse of the privileges of limited liability trading. I am entirely satisfied by the evidence before me that this court must take immediate action.”

That’s telling him, Sal!