Odds & Sods 22.07.2020

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

Well, you must agree that the title makes a change from Miscellany. And unless I have a major item to focus on this might be the format from now on. Another big one, so take your time.

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MOCHRAS/SHELL ISLAND

When I was much younger I spent a summer working in the Victoria Hotel in Llanbedr, between Bermo and Harlech. Living out back in what was imaginatively called a ‘chalet’.

Happy days!

The Vic was busy in summer, and one reason for that was its close proximity to a very large campsite, to which many of our English neighbours would repair to besport themselves. This was known to them as Shell Island, but to many of the locals it was Mochras.

In common with other such establishments, Shell Island has been closed for the past few months, but unlike similar establishments it does not plan to open at all this year. In fact, the statement put out by the Workman family, which owns the site, says that it “will not be opening until at least 2021″.

Which could be interpreted as meaning that Shell Island will never open again.

Making me wonder if there’s any connection between this possibility and the planned expansion of nearby Llanbedr airfield. For an announcement in May stated that military training was coming to the airfield, heralding more MoD involvement.

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If this increased militarisation means drones, as seems likely, then it would make sense to control the land between the airfield and the sea. Then, if a drone goes haywire, it’ll kill a few rabbits, or fish, rather than wipe out three generations of the Smith family from West Bromwich.

Locals would be wise to be concerned, because further down the coast, at Aberporth, a number of military drone flights have gone awry. One last year landed not far from a school.

Maybe this is expecting too much of Plaid Cymru, but I would like to think that Cyngor Gwynedd is keeping up with developments, asking questions of the MoD and the airfield’s owners.

And if the council is doing that, then I expect it to keep the public informed, rather than bending to the ‘security’ restrictions that will be imposed to stop us knowing what’s happening in our country.

WEEP FOR WALES 18A

Regular readers will know that this series started over two years ago after I’d been told about Paul and Rowena Williams closing their hotels in Powys, laying off staff, and leaving tradesmen and suppliers unpaid.

Though according to them they’d sold the empire they built up through mortgage fraud to a convicted fraudster named Keith Harvey Partdridge. (Yes, that is how it’s spelled.)

Even before it all collapsed at Knighton and Presteigne the Williams pair had moved up to Gwynedd, and Plas Glynllifon. They had ambitious plans for the old pile that would cost over £20m. Not only that, but they also bought the Seiont Manor Hotel, and a little place outside Dolgellau called Fronoleu.

Plas Glynllifon. Click to enlarge

They were even eyeing up Plas Brereton and Plas Tŷ Coch. Or maybe they were just stringing people along, because they are a couple of bullshitters.

Towards the end of 2018 it became obvious the Williams’ finances didn’t match up to their stated ambitions. Along came Myles Andrew Cunliffe, said by Paul Williams to be a “finance guy”, which I suppose is one way of describing what Cunliffe does.

As you can read in the link I’ve just given, in December 2018 Cunliffe was promising that Plas Glynllifon would open as a hotel within months. It never did open. And eventually, Seiont Manor also closed, with more staff losing their jobs, and their unpaid wages. More tradesmen and suppliers chasing what they were owed.

Since I started writing about this crew a number of people have got in touch to tell me how they’ve been ripped off. People able to give me details only genuine victims (or the perpetrators) would know, but for a variety of reasons some have been reluctant to let me use this material. Which I can understand.

Now another victim has been in touch, and he’s given me clearance to tell his story, as long as I withhold his name. Again, I suggest there are far too many details for this to have been fabricated.

Here’s a tidied up and redacted pdf version of the e-mails I received. As you read it you’ll understand how Cunliffe, and his associate, Jon Disley, operate. And it’s not just those two.

You’ll also realise that after allegedly scamming people in Marbella, including Myles Cunliffe’s own brother – testified in the comment to this blog reproduced below – Disley may now be operating in Portugal.

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The Tom Ellis referred to more than once is Jon Disley’s son-in-law. Dennis Rogers will be introduced in a minute.

Jon Disley made the London dailies last week, snapped out shopping in Chelsea with his girlfriend, Claire Sweeney, who appears in Brookside. Here’s the report from the Sun, and here’s the Daily Mail‘s account.

Image: BackGrid. Click to enlarge

The Sun describes Jon Disley as a “career conman”, and the Daily Mail says he’s a “convicted fraudster”. Yet here he is with his girlfriend shopping in Chelsea, with not a care in the world.

It’s possible there’s a connection between some of those I’m writing about and the £8m Arron Banks can’t account for, the money that may have swung the Brexit referendum in 2016.

I suggest that because Denis Rogers, an associate of Disley and Cunliffe, sat as a nominee director on Banks’ company Rock Holdings, which was identified by the Electoral Commission as the channel for that £8m. John Sweeney of the BBC’s Newsnight investigated the lead but ran into a dead-end on the Isle of Man.

It’s reasonable to assume that whoever nominated Rogers – briefly the Brexit Party candidate for Warrington South – is the source or the conduit for that £8m.

So, we see that Rock Holdings is/was based on the Isle of Man. Rogers was listed as the director of a number of companies giving an address on Douglas’ South Quay, behind which we find the old gas board office – Murdoch Chambers – used as an address by Rock Holdings.

The former Trafalgar pub was used as an address by a number of Dennis Rogers’ companies. The building behind it, the old gas board offices, renamed ‘Murdoch Chambers’, was the address used by Arron Banks’ company Rock Holdings, central to the missing Brexit funding. Rogers was a nominee director of Rock Holdings. Click to enlarge.

This Isle of Man/Brexit connection is explored in Weep for Wales 13.

And, finally, someone sent me a truly gruesome image, and yet so fitting. It’s Myles Cunliffe with Dawn Ward, who I’m told stars in a programme called The Real Housewives of Cheshire. (As opposed to ‘The Phoney Housewives of Cheshire’?) He’s introduced as “an old friend”, but no doubt Cunliffe paid for this celebrity endorsement.

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Put the two images together and they could be labelled, ‘Cheshire Set meets Costa del Crime’. But don’t laugh too much. These are the people buying up northern Wales, from Abba Sock to Ross Niger, and those who can’t stretch to that will be found in new commuter villages along the A55 and around Wrecsam (aka ‘West Cheshire’). Here’s the latest of these developments.

Incidentally Cunliffe’s new venture being plugged here is Buy to Lease. All you need to know is in this review. Though the very fact that Myles Cunliffe is involved should tell you enough.

But if you feel compelled to throw money away then contact editor@jacothenorth.net giving your contact details, and I will personally arrange for one of my highly-trained magic bean salesmen to call on you.

But if the compulsion must be satisfied immediately, then scroll down to the bottom of this piece and send money through PayPal. You know you’ll feel better for it!

UPDATE 06.08.2020: A couple of days ago I received a letter from a solicitor acting on behalf Neil Cunliffe. Here’s the letter and my reply.

UPDATE 07.08.2020: Writing that previous update reminded me that I also had a letter from Jon Disley’s solicitor. Here it is with my response.

LLANGEFNI SHIRE HALL

I’m sure you’ll remember another high-flying business tycoon who turned up in Wales to impress media and local politicos alike. I’m referring now to Tristan Scott Haynes. Last year he bought the old Shire Hall in Llangefni, on Ynys Môn.

I wrote about it here with Not another one! followed up with the Llangefni Shire Hall section of Wales, colonialism and corruption.

According to the Daily Post‘s online offspring, NorthWalesLive, the old building was going to be, “a business centre and conference venue  . . . a pod hotel, an art gallery . . . and attract companies of all sizes to the 45-room landmark.”

Wow! What could possibly go wrong?

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Well, for a start, the reality of Haynes’ business empire didn’t quite live up to the billing: ” . . . the managing director of Chief Properties – who also runs a successful haulage firm”, we were told. Mmm.

Chief Properties Limited was set up in August 2018 to buy a building. Any building, anywhere. It could have been the clubhouse of Inverurie Curling Club, but when he went online Haynes just happened to see the Shire Hall.

The latest accounts (or rather a 2-page statement from Haynes) – up to 31 August 2019 – value the Shire Hall at £201,942 and . . . that’s it, that is Chief Properties’ total portfolio. When everything is taken into account the Chief Properties accounts show a net worth of £12,460.

The money to make the purchase came from Together Commercial Finance, of Cheshire, a lender to which the former proprietors of Plas Glynllifon turned when real banks put up flashing neon signs saying ‘Sod off Paul and Rowena Williams’. My calculator blew a fuse when I tried to work out how much the Gruesome Twosome owe Together.

The “successful haulage firm” is Falcon Transportation Ltd, which is actually in the black. But Eddie Stobart needn’t lose any sleep.

But, anyway, why am I going over old ground? Because, my friends, Chief Properties has put the Shire Hall up for sale. Which is a pity, because I was looking forward to staying in the pod hotel, visiting the art gallery, and looking around the conference venue and the business centre.

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I’m sure someone else will buy it. And even if it’s Old Nick himself, he’ll still get a great write-up in the local media. I can see it now: ‘Infernal Regions entrepreneur to open soul-bartering emporium in downtown Llangefni’.

I wonder if Beelzebub would get a ‘Welsh Government’ grant? Should be a doddle – he must have plenty of satisfied customers down Corruption Bay.

ABERGWAUN

A nice little town, Abergwaun (otherwise known as Fishguard); and of course home to the legendary newshound, Hugh Pugh.

Despite Hugh’s best efforts, not a lot happens in Abergwaun, or that was the case until recently. For the town has seen two arson attacks on boats, and a mugging.

There was also a suspicious fire near the Fishguard Bay Hotel. And if that rings a bell then it’s because it formed part of Gavin Lee Woodhouse’s property empire. He’s the guy I wrote about recently when we took another look at the Afan Valley Adventure Resort. (Scroll down.)

Abergwaun, arson attack. Click to enlarge

Just about everybody in the town links the incidents with the arrival of a number of homeless males following the permanent closure of the Riverside hostel in Pembroke.

These are now housed at Cartref, a hotel in the centre of Abergwaun which this photograph, taken on Monday, suggests is showing signs of wear.

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Others from the Pembroke hostel were housed a few miles away in the Silverdale Lodge motel at Johnston, where anti-social behaviour was reported by locals.

All this is annoying enough for locals, but now there’s another concern. Wales & West Housing is a major social landlord in the area, and on its website, locals read:

“Wales & West Housing will restart our lettings from 6th July where the property is vacant . . . We will start with . . . vacancies which are needed urgently by our Local Authority partners to assist with their need to focus on alleviating homelessness and facilitate move on for people living in temporary accommodation.”

Clearly, those now housed at Cartref and Silverdale are the responsibility of the council, and they are now in temporary accommodation. So they will be given priority for Wales & West tenancies in Abergwaun – ahead of locals who might have been waiting for years.

People with all manner of behavioural issues, none of whom are from Pembrokeshire, few of whom are from Wales, will get priority over locals. And Wales & West will be paid more to house these drug addicts and petty criminals than they could claim in rent from law-abiding, hard-working Welsh people.

The recent crime wave could become a permanent feature of life in Abergwaun.

The social housing system is no longer fit for purpose.

UPDATE 01.08.2020: This might explain the broken window.

MARK JAMES IN CORRUPTION BAY

Anyone who follows Welsh news and current affairs will know the name Mark James. But for those less au fait with these subjects . . . Mark James was the Chief Executive of Carmarthenshire county council from 2002 until last summer.

James had been hired by, and was – theoretically, at least – answerable to the elected representatives of the people. But by cajoling, and when that failed, by threats and intimidation, he somehow came to control each successive administration, of all political colours, Labour, Independent and Plaid Cymru.

To cement his authority, he personally recruited subordinates who were answerable to him, and to him alone.

All of which meant that for a decade and a half Carmarthenshire was run as Mark James’s private fiefdom. He behaved like a despot, wielding untrammelled power, and just like a despot he was prone to outbursts of petty vindictiveness. One example was the persecution of a blogger who had annoyed him, threatening her and her family with homelessness.

This cause célèbre was funded with council money even though it was a private action. And hardly anyone – certainly not the councillors! – dared to question him.  Though it did not go unnoticed elsewhere; Private Eye awarded James its Shit of the Year award for 2016.

Richly deserved.

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Because all in all, Mark James is a very nasty piece of work. Not just in his behaviour towards others but also in his attitude to things Welsh, where he is – and this is being generous – unenthusiastic. Some would go further.

Unless of course it’s a superficial form of ‘Welshness’, like rugby. Which explains his generosity – again, with council money – to the local Scarlets rugby set up; and also towards David Pickering, failed businessman, but former captain of the national rugby team and also former chairman of the Welsh Rugby Union.

James standing down last summer may have been linked with shit hitting the fan from his ill-starred partnership with Swansea University, and assorted businessmen, and the plan to build a Wellness and Life Science Village in a Llanelli bog.

The £200m+ Wellness and Life Science Village was to be James’s lasting monument, a pet project he had driven through against the better judgement of many. Yet another indication of his despotic behaviour, this time tinged with Ozymandias Syndrome.

These unfortunate liaisons and ill-judged business ventures eventually resulted in a house call from the police.

But running Carmarthenshire council and building pyramids was never enough to keep Mark James occupied (and anyway, that could be left to underlings) so it was no surprise when I learnt that he was involved in the Corruption Bay property market. I wrote about this in mid-2017 with Baywatch, and Baywatch 2.

In a nutshell, James and a few associates had taken over the management of blocks of flats and were seeking to maximise profits by running as many as possible as holiday apartments, attracting Airbnb stag parties, groups of rugby fans, and others guaranteed to make life hell for the blocks’ permanent residents.

The properties run by James and his cronies are in a gated enclave called Century Wharf, between Dumballs Road and the river. Run via: Century Wharf (One) RTM Company Limited, Century Wharf (Two) RTM Company Limited and Century Wharf (Three) RTM Company Limited. (RTM means ‘Right to Manage’.)

Century Wharf. Click to enlarge

It’s time now for an update.

Someone sent me a wee clip from a Century Wharf Facebook page showing an invoice from a company called European Telecom Solutions (ETS). This company is run by Robert Nigel Lovering, who is a partner with David Pickering in the former MoD site at Llangennech, Llanelli.

An odd business, that place in Llangennech. The MoD was going to put the site up for auction then, at the last minute, it was sold to the council, who immediately sold it to an unregistered company called R & A Properties, which was run by Pickering and Lovering, two men enjoying a close association with the council’s CEO.

It’s a complicated business but Cneifiwr explains it in Warthogs and a Man with a Van. I’ve also tried to keep up. Type ‘Llangennech’ or ‘Dawnus’ in the search box at the top of the sidebar.

But back to Century Wharf. Here’s the invoice from ETS.

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Nothing really untoward, maybe the toner is a bit expensive. But what I found really odd is that the company ETS doesn’t seem to be trading. Certainly not according to the latest accounts, for the year ending November 2019. (The invoice is from June last year.) And the company’s website doesn’t seem to have been updated for two years.

Yet Mark James can call this ghost company out from Llanelli for a minor job in Cardiff? More than that, the FB page suggests that ETS also provides telephone services to Century Wharf. How can a non-trading company be doing this?

Is work being done, and business transacted, that is not appearing in the accounts submitted to Companies House? Yet with a VAT number quoted on the invoice one must assume that VAT is being paid.

Though when I checked the VAT number given on the invoice I saw that it differs from the number given for ETS on the VAT Search website. And yet the company number on the invoice, 11064246, is the same as that given by Companies House.

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I’m sure there’s a simple explanation.

Another source in Century Wharf writes: “Once elected as a RTM director he (James) held 2 AGMs then decided that there would be no more . . . and is a de facto dictator with . . . . . . . . acting as his paid for spy.”

“De facto dictator”. In a rapidly changing world it’s almost reassuring to know that some things remain constant. For Mark James was never interested in the views of others. Even those he was supposedly serving.

No, make that – especially the views of those he was supposedly serving.

ONE PLANET DEVELOPMENTS

Yes, I know, I promised more on OPDs, but so much information is coming in that it’s difficult to make sense of it all. I’ll try to put it all together and get out a OPD special in the near future.

To whet your appetite, I’m told that the Ecological Land Co-operative of Brighton, which wants to set up on Gower, already has a presence in Pembrokeshire. Mention is made of an ancient hedge being ripped up, and a log cabin brought in from Bristol.

More next week . . .

♦ end ♦

 




Baywatch 2

WHAT WE HAVE ALREADY ESTABLISHED

If you haven’t yet read ‘Baywatch’, my earlier post on this subject, then I suggest you do.

In that first post we established that Mark Vincent James, Chief Executive of Carmarthenshire County Council, is in partnership with Stephen James Corner and Warwick Estates Property Management Ltd, (said to be Corner by another name), in three companies, Century Wharf (One) RTM Company LtdCentury Wharf (Two) RTM Company Ltd and Century Wharf (Three) RTM Company Ltd.

Century Wharf

RTM means ‘Right to Manage’, a vehicle by which those owning or leasing apartments in a block may exercise some control over the running of that block. An RTM is a company limited by guarantee having no share capital and with each member usually being liable to a nominal sum such as £1 in the event of it all going belly-up.

That there are three Century Wharf RTMs suggests that each represents a different block on Century Wharf, which covers a considerable area on the east bank of the River Taff, to the north of Clarence Road, the A4119.

It’s worth considering the timeline for these three companies. All were Incorporated 18 October 2012, with Steven James Corner as a founding director, but he resigned from all three on 21 December 2012. He re-joined all three on 27 November 2014, as did Stephen John Kass. James also joined (One) and (Three) on that day, but for some reason he’d joined (Two) five months earlier, on 27 June 2015.

Despite being involved with all three RTMs I have only found one lease in Century Wharf held by James, this being 186 Hansen Court. Which makes it reasonable to conclude that either he has other properties in Century Wharf that we don’t yet know about, or that he’s involved with the RTMs in a ‘professional’ capacity, a possibility I’ll discuss later.

In addition, we know that James owns the leases on two properties near to where the A4232 lands on the west side of the Bay. These are 6 Davaar House and 9 Davaar House. As we learn from White Pages (see below), Patrycja (D) Nowak, the young Polish woman I wrote about in Baywatch, has lived at both 9 Davaar House and 186 Hansen Court.

Ms Nowak living in two different properties leased by Mark Vincent James, Chief Executive of Carmarthenshire County Council, was obviously a perfectly proper landlord-tenant relationship, and this blog will not stoop to suggest otherwise.

Ms Nowak, you may recall, is said to be the woman who fell from a seventh-floor flat at Century Wharf. Knowing that Ms Nowak has lived at two addresses leased by Mark Vincent James it’s not unreasonable to assume that her fall might have occurred at another property owned or leased by him.

It’s worth adding that the relationship between James and Corner seems to be strengthening. For in March they formed a company, Building and Estate Solutions Today Ltd, the only other director being a Mark Philip Carter, who seems to be based in Brighton.

THE RACKET EXPLAINED FURTHER

Quite obviously, Mark Vincent James doesn’t live in any of the properties he leases in the Bay; he lives, with his devoted and pious wife, in Carmarthen. Which means that the properties in Cardiff Bay are investments, intended to swell the James family fortune beyond even that which Carmarthenshire Council Council and assorted lawyers have thus far achieved.

Which takes us to the heart of the issue, and why so many of James’s neighbours in Cardiff Bay are unhappy with his behaviour, and the company he keeps. It’s because many of those living in the buildings we’ve discussed are permanent residents, and they bought their properties in order to live in them. A number of these permanent residents are retired and elderly.

While on the other hand, we have those, like Mark Vincent James, who own or lease properties in the Bay as investments. And because they’re investments, it follows that their owners wish to maximise the return on those investments.

Some two-bed flats on Century Wharf and elsewhere in the Bay are currently advertised for rent for as little as £650 pcm, which will cover the mortgage and provide a regular income for the holder of the lease. However, much more can be made by renting out flats for short stays.

Because the real money is to be made from holidaymakers, weekend visitors, business visitors, those attending conferences, sporting events, and others in Cardiff for short periods who prefer self-catering accommodation to hotels. Equally clearly, and especially when these short-stay visitors are stag and hen parties, there will be disruption for the permanent residents.

As we read in ‘Baywatch’, one of the companies involved in the rental business in Cardiff Bay is Squarefoot Estate Agents, a company owned by Michael James Corner through another of his companies, Imaginative Property Group Ltd. Squarefoot (or Square Foot, as it’s known to Companies House), also sells properties in Cardiff Bay.

Another company involved in the Cardiff Bay letting business is A Space In The City, and Companies House tells us that Corner is again a director. In fact, this new company, Incorporated as recently as 1 December 2016, is now wholly owned by Corner’s Imaginative Property Group Ltd.

And as we’ve seen, Corner is also the man running the three Century Wharf RTMs. This is achieved by him controlling, by various means, the leases, or the votes of leaseholders, for 80 – 90 properties on Century Wharf. So with anything between 80 and 140 attending the AGM it’s clear that his block vote will trump the individual leaseholders unless there’s a very good turnout and they’re united.

This is further helped by Mark Vincent James serving as chairman at these AGMs, and refusing to allow questions that might embarrass him or his partner(s), while also ensuring that ‘troublemakers’ are not allowed to participate. If this sounds familiar, then of course it’s how James has run Carmarthenshire County Council for too long.

Through A Space in the City, Squarefoot Estate Agents, Warwick Estates and other companies Stephen James Corner controls the leases of many properties in Cardiff Bay. These properties are run to maximise profit and by so doing make life miserable for others, including many retired people. His front man now appears to be Mark Vincent James.

The irony, or tragedy, here is that the three RTMs were set up originally by residents in order to free themselves from one exploitive agent in the form of Peverel OM, the company mentioned in this Guardian article. Instead, they eventually fell into the clutches of Corner, Kass and James. Talk about frying pan and fire!

The deeper problem might be that too many flats have been built in Cardiff Bay. If not too many, then no attempt made to separate those wanting a quiet life and those prepared to rent out their investments to stag parties. When rules and agreements do exist to limit the uses to which these flats can be put, Corner and others like him seem able to waltz around them.

WILL HE RETAIN HIS CROWN?

Mark Vincent James is in business with a man, Steven James Corner, who set up a company, Imaginative Property Group Ltd, with a woman, Barbara Kahan, who is accused by the The Sunday Times and others of allowing her name to be used in setting up UK companies that are used by criminals to launder money.

The address now given for the Imaginative Property Group is 98 Davaar House, a building where Mark Vincent James leases two flats. Given Corner’s link with Kahan, and James’s business links with Corner, we’re entitled to ask:

Is Mark Vincent James, Chief Executive of Carmarthenshire County Council, the man who wants to make a blogger homeless, Private Eye Shit of the Year 2016, now linked with property companies that might be laundering money for criminals?

click to enlarge

What we know for certain is that Mark Vincent James is involved with companies riding roughshod over residents in certain blocks of flats in Cardiff Bay. Various permissions and lease conditions are breached for the personal benefit of Steven James Corner, Mark Vincent James and Stephen John Kass. These three now control the Right to Manage companies that were set up to defend permanent residents from people like them.

I think the time has come for Mark Vincent James to make a clean breast of his activities in Cardiff Bay. How many properties does he own or lease? Before becoming a director, and then chair, of the RTMs, did James declare to other leaseholders – as he was required to – his pecuniary interest (of which others only became aware when they realised his relationship with Corner and Kass)?

Should the public be concerned that a man embroiled in a shady and little known sector of the property jungle is also the chief executive of a Welsh local authority? Has he declared his property dealings in Cardiff Bay to his employer, Carmarthenshire County Council? (Though seeing as he is chief executive, and controls everything on the council, to whom would he declare it?)

And what is the ‘Welsh’ Government’s view of Mark Vincent James’s dealings in the Cardiff Bay property market, and the disreputable company he keeps? Shouldn’t this be a matter for concern?

The ‘Welsh’ Government might also care to question whether any dealings it has had with Mark Vincent James, or any advice it might have accepted from him, could have profited James and those he is involved with in the Cardiff Bay property racket.

HOPE SPRINGS ETERNAL . . .

In an attempt to establish the propriety of Mark Vincent James’s excursion into one of the more opaque areas of the property business I have written to the Public Service Ombudsman for Wales. The current holder of that post is Nick Bennett, a former CEO of Community Housing Cymru, and an ‘insider’ to the tips of his shapely and well-manicured fingertips.

I don’t expect Bennett to tell me that James has done anything wrong (even if he has), because one thing that has become clear in recent years is that in the eyes of the ‘Welsh’ Government and others Mark Vincent James is a man without fault. Telling me that either he has his own flock of guardian angels or else he knows where a lot of bodies are buried.

But anyway, I’ll go through the motions. Here’s a copy of my letter to Bennett.

♦ end ♦

Baywatch

MERGERS AND GROWTH

One of the ways I combat ennui (and hangovers) is by visiting websites such as Companies House and seeing what I can turn up, because it’s possible to search for an individual’s name as well as a company name. For example, is Carwyn Jones a director of the Come And Get It, Big Boy! massage parlour in Nantyffyllon? (Of course not, how could you think such a thing! Ach y fi!)

This is what I was doing when one thing led to another and I turned up something rather interesting, or disturbing, possibly both. Let me explain.

As you may know, Coleg y Drindod/Trinity College in Carmarthen merged a few years ago with Swansea Metropolitan University and St David’s College Lampeter to give us (deep breath), University of Wales Trinity St David. Among its developments is a £300m new campus in SA1, on the city side of Swansea University’s new Bay Campus. This is an area where Jac and his mates, long, long ago, used to dodge the docks police to go fishing. I got to wondering who was running the show.

UWTSD’s new waterfront campus in Swansea

The UWTSD itself has a Royal Charter, which means there are no details available on the Companies House website. However, there is information available for Trinity University College, and there, among the directors, we find Mark Vincent James, ‘Local Government Chief Executive’. I experienced a ‘Eureka!’ moment, for I had searched the CH website for the Carmarthenshire CEO before, but had drawn a blank because there are so many Mark Jameses out there. But now, armed with the ‘Vincent’, where might it take me?

If you type ‘Mark Vincent James’ into the Companies House website search, you come up with two appointments; one, as we’ve seen, is Trinity University College, but the other is Building and Estate Solutions Today Ltd. The other directors of this company being Mark Philip Carter and Steven James Corner. The address given for the company and the three directors is, 4 Regents Canal House, 626 Commercial Road, London, England, E14 7HS, a nondescript commercial building in Limehouse.

I could find no other Welsh link for Carter, whose business activities seem to focus on Brighton, but Corner threw up some very interesting revelations.

CORNERING A MARKET

Among the companies of which Steven James Corner is a director are: Century Wharf (One) RTM Company Ltd, Century Wharf (Two) RTM Company Ltd, and Century Wharf (Three) RTM Company Ltd. RTM means Right to Manage, a system that allows leaseholders to organise themselves and run, for example, their block of flats. Explained here. The companies’ numbers probably refer to different blocks, but all at Century Wharf in Cardiff Bay.

If we rummage through the other directors of these RTM companies we see a ‘Mark James’, sans Vincent, with the ‘Occupation’ box left blank, and an address in Essex. But, believe me, this is Mark Vincent James, Chief Executive of Carmarthenshire County Council. For one thing, the date of birth is the same as on the entry for Trinity University College, June 1959. And of course, we have already established the connection with Steven James Corner through Building and Estate Solutions Today Ltd.

Century Wharf

Having established a double connection between Corner and James I began to think a little more about Corner and wonder what else he might be up to. So I went through the list of companies with which he’s linked. One is Regents Canal House Ltd, which explains why Building and Estate Solutions Today Ltd is registered there.

Another company with which Corner has been linked since it was set up in September 2003 is Property Matters (Britain) Ltd, which is also registered at Regents Canal House. Among the more recent additions to the board of this company we find a Michal Swiatek, who is Polish, and 37 years of age. Here’s his Linkedin profile.

Mr Swiatek can also be found at the Squarefoot estate agents, which has an office in the Bay, and also one on 198 Cowbridge Road East. Although called Squarefoot, it’s registered with Companies House as Square Foot Estate Agents Ltd, using the Cowbridge Road East address. Among the directors we find a ‘Steve Corner’, who is of course, Steven James Corner, though the address given for him is in Brighton.

Another Polish connection with Squarefoot/Square Foot is the website. For if you scroll down to the bottom of the home page and click on ‘Site by: Orth Multimedia‘ you are wafted through the ether to 4-200 Rybnik ul. Wodzisławska 112 tel. 660 091 847.

Let us return to Property Matters (Britain) Ltd, for now things begin to get a little disturbing.

YIDDISHE MAMA

This Confirmation Statement, from the Companies House website, dated 15 February 2017, and shown below, tells us that Property Matters (Britain) Ltd has two shareholders, each with 100 shares. They are, Michal Swiatek and Imaginative Property Group Ltd. The next and obvious question – what is the Imaginative Property Group Ltd?

The answer is that the Imaginative Property Group Ltd was Incorporated 10 June 2013, with the Registered Office Address given as 98 Davaar House Ferry Court, Prospect Place, Cardiff, Wales, CF11 0LB. Again, in Cardiff Bay. The real surprise comes when we look at the directors for while, predictably, we find Steven James Corner, we also find Barbara Kahan. So who is she?

Barbara Kahan is listed as an appointee against no fewer than 22,576 companies according to Companies House, and 25,802 according to the Times. ‘How can that be?’ you ask. I asked myself the same question as I Googled ‘Barbara Kahan’. What I came up with is very worrying. For this 85-year-old woman is said to allow her name and status as a UK citizen be used by Israeli crooks.

Here’s a link to the Times report (paywall, unfortunately), and here are the details on the FinanceFeeds website, both from December.

There isn’t even the defence that Imaginative Property Group was an off-the-shelf company, lying dormant for a while until Corner came along. For the Companies House website makes it clear that Corner and Kahan were both appointed on the day of the company’s Incorporation, 10 June 2013. Kahan immediately stood down leaving Corner as the sole director and shareholder.

It should also be pointed out that the original name of the company was Scorn Properties Group Ltd, based at Regents Canal House, before the name was officially changed, 11.10.2013, and the address changed to the current Cardiff location, 06.06.2016.

Which means that the Chief Executive of Carmarthenshire County Council is in business with a man, Steven James Corner, who can be linked to a woman, Barbara Kahan, who is accused of acting as a front for Israeli crooks!

MAN ABOUT THE BAY

Once I knew what I’ve just told you, I began to wonder exactly what James and Corner might be up to, so I asked around, made enquiries with contacts in Cardiff. Here’s what I’ve been told.

It was obvious that they’re involved in property in Cardiff Bay. Given the names of three of the companies it was also reasonable to assume that Century Wharf is involved somehow, and so it is, for I’m told that Mark James owns a property there.

My feedback also suggests that James owns property in Prospect Place, which is where the Imaginative Property Group Ltd is based, in a seventh-floor flat with a 125-year lease in the name of the company.

A name we find listed with Prospect Place Management (Cardiff) Ltd is Warwick Estate Property Management Ltd, which seems to be concerned with management and maintenance of buildings of multiple occupation, for we also find it with the three Century Wharf RTMs.

Perhaps the most perplexing thing I discovered about Corner was his foray into soft furnishings. For he served as a director of Curtain Gallery (Wales) Ltd, a company formed by a Kathleen Bowen, who seems to live in Gorseinon, but had her shop across the mighty Llwchwr in Llanelli. I use the past tense because the company was struck off in December 2016.

Corner was appointed as a director on 20 May 2015 – but why? Is he an expert on curtains and cushions? But of course, by May 2015 he was in business with Mark Vincent James, and the shop was in Carmarthenshire, so maybe James asked him to get involved. If so, why?

Answers on a postcard, please, to . . . .

But enough of dusty documents, let us focus for a while on human beings.

FULL OF EASTERN PROMISE?

Among the snippets of information that winged their way to Château Jac was one telling of a connection that made no immediate sense. For someone believes that a young Polish woman is working as a manager of properties with which James and Corner are involved, and she may be living in one of these properties herself.

The name I was given is Patrycja Nowak who, my informant added, is connected with the Wales International Academy of Voice (WIAV), which is a constituent part of the University of Wales Trinity St David. And indeed, we find her on the ‘Staff’ page. (Since removed, but fortunately I screen captured it, and you can read it below.) As you might expect, I began to wonder about Ms Nowak, so I started Googling.

As far as I can see there is just one Patrycja Nowak living in Cardiff. Another source linked Ms Nowak with an incident in which a woman had fallen from the seventh floor of a block of flats in Hansen Court. By pure coincidence, Mark Vincent James owns a property at Hansen Court, which is on Century Wharf, though he appears to have bought it last year.

Further enquiries suggested that Ms Nowak might also be known as Patrycja D Nowak.

I say that because White Pages gives us two recent addresses in the Bay for a Patrycja D Nowak. One is in Davaar House, which you’ll remember is where the Imaginative Property Group Ltd is based, that company set up with the busy old lady, Barbara Kahan. While Hansen Court is of course where we have established Mark James owns a property, and where a 23-year-old woman fell(?) from a balcony four years ago.

I think it’s reasonable to assume that this Patrycja D Nowak is the same woman as the Patrycja Nowak who worked at the Wales International Academy of Voice. And if they are one and the same, then the 192 site suggests that she may now have moved to Brighton.

Which is entirely plausible, given that Brighton addresses have cropped up time and again in this enquiry, Steven James Corner himself has given Brighton addresses, and ere it slipped down the back of the sofa forever even the Llanelli soft furnishings business had a Brighton address.

Steven James Corner’s Companies House entry for Curtain Gallery (Wales) Ltd

UPDATE 01.06.2017: Thanks to a source I now have Land Registry documents for two more properties leased by Mark Vincent James in Cardiff Bay. They are 6 Davaar House and 9 Davaar House, the latter address being where Ms Nowak lives, or lived. And the same building in which we find the Imaginative Property Group Ltd, formed by Steven James Corner and Barbara Kahan. This gives us three properties in Cardiff Bay leased by Mark Vincent James. Are there more?

Also note the involvement, on both title documents, of Prospect Place Management (Cardiff) Ltd of, Unit 9, Astra Centre, Edinburgh Way, Harlow, Essex, England, CM20 2BN. The Astra Centre again, where the three Century Wharf RTMs are registered. Though I’m surprised not to see Steven James Corner listed among the directors. Though another familiar name is there, Warwick Estates Property Management Ltd.

SO WHAT HAVE WE LEARNT?

To begin with, we now know that the Chief Executive of Carmarthenshire County Council is branching out into the property business in Cardiff Bay, and he’s doing so in partnership with a man who has done business with a very questionable individual who may be laundering money for gangsters and terrorists.

Then there’s the Polish connections, are they entirely coincidental?

If Mark James owns or leases properties in the Bay then some might suppose that he expects Corner et al to help him maximise the income from his properties. If so, then in return maybe Corner would expect James to use his undoubted influence for the benefit of his new friends and business partners.

One suggestion is that Corner and others have ambitions to take over the lucrative contracts for cleaning, maintaining and repairing buildings in the Bay . . . whether the residents want them to or not. A clue may be found in another company, formed in February, Housekeeping and Cleaning (UK) Ltd. Corner’s partner in this new Cardiff-based venture is Richard James Godfrey, who seems to specialise in modern Mrs Moppery.

Whatever lies behind the connection between Mark Vincent James and Steven James Corner and his associates, a council chief executive teaming up with property dealers concerns me, and should be of concern to others.

Something else I find truly odd – given what we hear about networks and grapevines in Cardiff Bay – is that Mark James has been able to launch himself as a property tycoon, keeping pretty racy company to boot, and yet no one seems to have known about it!

Even odder (perhaps the stone in my shoe), was Corner’s detour to Llanelli and the soft furnishings business – what the hell was that about?

Something we’ve learnt – or had confirmed – is that the redevelopment of Cardiff docks has sucked in public funding to benefit, originally, Lord Crickhowell and his friends in Associated British Ports, and then, smaller property speculators, most of whom have descended on Cardiff from outside of Wales. What benefits have we seen in Cwmbran and Corwen?

Now Cardiff looks forward to the Champions League Final on Saturday between Juventus and Real Madrid. Of course, the city is too small to host an event of this magnitude, which explains the exorbitant rates being charged for accommodation. We can confidently assume that owners of flats down the Bay will be making a killing, among them perhaps . . .

I wonder if Patrycja has a ticket for the game?

♦ end ♦