Dawnus 3

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 intended to be a sort of bits and pieces post in which I looked at various topics. Among them the sale of Coleg Harlech and an update on the (ex-)student councillors that used to plague Swansea council, a sort of ‘Where are they now?’

For your information, and titillation, one former Labour councillor ended up working for Tory Home Secretary Javid; another went home to California before returning to promote herself as a ‘political consultant’; a third works as a ‘Director of Sponsor Relations’ for a US company; a fourth worked for that same company before becoming a ‘globetrotter’; while a fifth – the only Tory – got banged up for child pornography.

But all that can wait because cogs have been turning in the old Jac noggin as I tried to make sense of who’s who and what’s what on either side of that great turbulence that cleaves Jack from Turk.

Not a great deal of new information has come to light but I have been pointed in certain directions and the bigger picture is now less opaque as connections are made and things fall into place.

Though I beg you to be patient, because this is one of the most complicated investigations I’ve ever done.

DAWNUS

There are a few things to add on Dawnus itself, and the myriad companies that sheltered ‘neath that umbrella. To help you get up to speed I advise you to read Dawnus and Dawnus 2.

The asset stripping and dismemberment of Dawnus may or may not have begun with the Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone 2014/15 but it certainly ties in with the arrival of Nicholas Charles Down, who now seems to run what’s left of Dawnus.

Though having said that, two new companies have emerged from the ashes. The first, on 22 March, was Dawnus International Group Ltd, which has already changed its name to DIG International Group Ltd. This new entity contains as directors a number of names that have appeared before in connection with the Dawnus group.

Then on 28 March the world saw the birth of Dawnus Commercial Consulting Ltd, based in sunny Porthcawl and with Andrew Kenneth Keay as sole director. Keay has used the Dawnus name previously for his one-man-band companies, though where he fits in the puzzle remains a mystery.

Another unplaced piece of the puzzle is Legsun Ltd, a company that is heavily in debt and whose directors are, since 14 February 2014, Timothy Alun Lowe, who has served as director with many Dawnus companies and also, since 12 March 2018, Dawnus head honcho Nicholas Charles Down.

click to enlarge

The early documents for Legsun are not available with Companies House without payment but we know that the company was started in March 1973, and though it now uses a Cardiff address it was previously using an address in the Pontypool area. I am in no doubt that Legsun is linked with the former Royal Ordnance Factory at Glascoed. Today this site is known as BAE Systems Munitions Glascoed.

Legsun is not a commercial company in the sense that you or I understand that term, because no genuine company could sustain losses on the scale of Legsun’s without going bust. How Legsun links with the collapse of Dawnus I’m not entirely sure. But it does, if only because Legsun’s only directors are also directors of Dawnus companies, and previous Legsun directors also had Dawnus links.

Legsun introduces the first connection with the military-industrial complex.

Late news: the following companies are now officially in receivership: Dawnus Construction Holdings Ltd; Churchfield Homes Ltd; Legsun Ltd; Quantum Geotechnical Ltd; Dawnus Group Ltd; Dawnus Southern Ltd; Dawnus Ltd; Dawnus Developments Ltd; Ashridge Construction Ltd.

There are charges outstanding against all these companies with the sole exception of Legsun which, despite having massive debts, was somehow able to satisfy three charges on March 14.

At the time of writing the administration documents aren’t available with Companies House. There’s also the possibility that other companies in the Dawnus stable may yet follow those listed above into receivership.

By my calculations the companies left standing are: Dawnus Commercial Management Ltd and Dawnus Commercial Consulting Ltd, the Keay companies. Then there’s Dawnus Consulting Ltd, with a Manchester address; Dawnus International Ltd; Dawnus Sierra Leone Ltd; DIG International Group Ltd; Dawnus Holdings Ltd; Construction Recyclate Management Ltd.

CROSSING OVER AND TOOLING UP

Another connection with the military-industrial complex – and one I neglected to mention in the two previous pieces – is Thales, the French ordnance manufacturer. Thales has a presence at Stradey Park (Business Centre), Llangennech, owned now by Robert Nigel Lovering.

To understand the background I refer you again to a 2014 Rebecca article by Paddy French.

What Paddy French told us was that the redundant Ministry of Defence site at Llangennech was bought in early 2009 by Carmarthenshire County Council (Prop. M. V. James) and immediately sold on to R & A Properties, an unregistered company.

According to this WalesOnline report from early May 2009 the manner of the deal was justified by ‘the council’ (the aforementioned M .V. James) because the MoD would otherwise have auctioned the site.

The title document for Stradey Park is interesting. Lovering is named as the owner but the money to buy the site seems to have come from three funders: Lloyds Bank plc, the Secretary of State for Defence, and Carmarthenshire County Council.

The title is dated 1 April 2009. It also refers to land detached in 2015 from the title and directs us to the title plan for Stradey Park . . . which is not available on the Land Registry website.

The ‘sale’ was handled by Hugh James Solicitors of Cardiff, official solicitors for the ‘Welsh Government’.

There appear to be further loans, including one from Thales UK Limited.

There are also leases; one is for ten years from 1 April 2009 and covered by title number CYM465605, which again, is unavailable with the Land Registry, perhaps because that lease has now expired. Another, for 25 years from 27.03.2012, is with SSE Micro Renewables (Commercial) Ltd for the lease of air space.

But none of this can be checked because everything is in the name of the individual Robert Nigel Lovering. Who must be well thought of in certain quarters.

There was understandable disquiet over the deal. One councillor was quoted, “No information was given about the firm that will be creating the jobs beyond the fact that it was involved in defence procurement. Neither were we told who was behind R & A Properties, except that they were known to some of the officers.”

Just over a week later WalesOnline reported the involvement of then Welsh Rugby Union chairman David Pickering. Pickering was promising the creation of 100 jobs before Christmas by a “blue chip” company understood to be involved in the “defence procurement industry”.

Pickering was also reported as saying, “I know some people will find it strange that R&A is not a limited committee (sic), but we’ve been advised to do it this way by our professional advisers”.

It may not have been a limited company but the section below from the year ended 31 March 2016 accounts makes reference to R&A Properties LLP (Limited Liability Partnership); but I can find no such company registered with Companies House. Was it not registered, or registered in some other jurisdiction?

click to enlarge

One company I did unearth was R & A Secure Services Ltd, described on the Companies House website as a ‘non-trading company’ with Lovering as sole director. This was launched in September 2012, so chronologically it fits, but how?

The capture below is from the Company Check website. Jacobs can be disregarded, he’s a Company Formation Agent, but who or what is Francis Trust? And where’s Pickering?

click to enlarge

One company that Lovering has been involved with for some time is Lancehawk Ltd, of which he became a director in July 1999. And as this report from an Industrial Tribunal tells us, he was in fact managing director.

The report, about a bit of rumpy pumpy (was he shagging two of his staff!), also tells us that Lancehawk was trading as European Telecom Solutions. So I don’t understand why Lancehawk is still in business and a new company called European Telecom Solutions Ltd was formed 15 November 2017.

By November 2009 the BBC was telling us that Thales UK was to equip or modify Warthog all-terrain armoured vehicles at Llangennech for use in Afghanistan. This is the “blue chip” company we were told about, the justification presumably for the curious purchase arrangements.

So it looks as if Lovering (plus Pickering and Preece?) bought the site specifically to accommodate Thales? (Whatever the answer, R & A Properties now seems to have finally done the decent thing and gone legit, forming R and A Properties Cardiff Ltd last month. Why ‘Cardiff’?)

Some would have us believe that Thales has moved out of Stradey Park, but I can find no report of such a departure, certainly not in the Welsh media. Though I did turn this up in the Herald. It suggests that Thales closed its Llangennech operation – or part of it – in late 2012 or early 2013.

Which might link with reports in February 2012 that Cassidian was moving to Llangennech. Cassidian merged with Airbus Military and Astrium in January 2014 to form Airbus Defence and Space, now a division of Airbus.

This would give us a third connection with the military-industrial complex. Though I can find no evidence of the Cassidian move ever materialising.

Though from a distance there is little documentary or other evidence of either Thales or Airbus having been in Llangennech. Come to that, the whole site might as well be a secret, what with it being owned by an unregistered company, or an individual, there being no website, and Google turning up no recent references to either company being at Llangennech.

Though Google Earth came up trumps with what might be a recent shot, suggesting that Thales is still in situ.

Courtesy of Google Earth, click to enlarge

Correction: The Google Earth image I’ve used there is from 2011. I am informed that Thales has long since slung its hook. Why was it not reported in the Welsh media?

UPDATE 23:25: The British Army withdrew from Afghanistan in 2014, which would clearly have reduced the demand for the Warthog All-Terrain vehicles assembled by Thales at Llangennech, and this might explain the closure.

It also suggests that despite all the bullshit and backslapping that attended Thales’ arrival in Llangennech it must have been known that the French visitor was never going to stay and put down roots.

However, this forum posting I stumbled upon suggests that other uses were found for Warthogs: “Jane’s military guide has reported that British Warthog vehicles will be transformed to serve as transporter vehicles for Thales Watchkeeper UAV”. ‘UAV’ being unmanned aerial vehicle, or drone. Which would make perfect sense.

Watchkeeper drones fly out of the base at Aberporth and they are none too reliable, five having crashed in recent years, one of them uncomfortably close to a school.

I’m convinced that drones out of Aberporth, or possibly Llanbedr, use darkness and cloud cover to fly up the Dysynni Valley along part of the ‘Mach Loop’. The constant noise can last half an hour or more. And recently I’ve had reports of the same issue around Cydweli, Glanyfferi and out over the sea.

Which means that Thales’ presence is still here, with Watchkeeper drones being transported on Warthog vehicles assembled at Llangennech. Overflying our country . . . and often crashing!

HYDRO INDUSTRIES LTD

On 2 January 2013 Lovering and Preece became directors of Hydro Industries Ltd (originally Watertec Solutions Ltd and then Aggrelek Ltd), with Pickering joining them in November.

Watertec was Incorporated 2 September 2010 on the east side of Swansea, at the Ashmount Business Park . . . within spitting distance of Dawnus Construction Holdings Ltd (at the time known as Dawnus Construction Ltd).

click to enlarge

Is this propinquity a coincidence? I think not.

The address for Aggrelek Ltd changed to Stradey Park 13 July 2011, and it became Hydro Industries in December of that year. Hydro Industries becomes another Legsun, in that it seems to operate in a parallel financial universe, being heavily in debt but still able to satisfy charges and generally carrying on as if nothing is amiss.

click to enlarge

The founders of Hydro Industries, Philip and Janine Morgan of Gorseinon, presumably had some knowledge of the water industry, to judge by other companies with which they’ve been involved, and certain directors of these companies, such as Chris Stretton.

But I don’t know what knowledge of desalination processes, or water purification and disposal in the third world is possessed by Lovering, Pickering and Preece. Maybe it doesn’t matter.

For almost immediately Lovering, Preece and Pickering had their feet under the Hydro Industries boardroom table things started happening for them on a transatlantic level with First Minister Carwyn Jones jetting across the Pond to put in a word.

As this ITV report from February 2013 tells us. Here’s how the BBC covered it. This, remember, is just one month after the trio became directors. Carwyn Jones was over again in February 2014.

Now clearly, if Lovering, Preece and Pickering didn’t join Hydro Industries until January 2013 then they didn’t have time to have arranged the contract with T&T Salvage that was announced by Carwyn Jones in February. In fact, Carwyn Jones seems to have taken Hydro Industries Ltd under his wing. How many other small companies received such treatment?

Another interesting – and more recent – reference to Hydro Industries I turned up is this one from March 2018 which sees Hydro Industries at No 3 in a list of “The 7 firms at the heart of Wales’ thriving tech and digital sector”.

Courtesy of WalesOnline, click to enlarge

You’ll see that at No 6 in the list is Airbus. Airbus is also mentioned along with Hydro Industries in the blurb for Carwyn Jones’s 2014 visit to the States. And I’ve seen the connection made elsewhere.

As with Thales locating to Llangennech the T&T contract was arranged by someone else, and Lovering and Preece were put into Hydro Industries to front the deal because they were ‘trusted’ . . . by someone. ‘Someone’ who could also pull Carwyn Jones’s strings.

SWEET CHARITY?

Though as I told you in the previous post, the three amigos have now been joined (displaced?) by some very glitzy company on the board and among the shareholders of Hydro Industries.

Almost immediately Pickering had joined Lovering and Preece on the Hydro board we saw investment from Diane Briere de L’Isle, David Stevens and Heather Stevens.

As I explained in an earlier piece, Diane Marguerite Marie Briere de L’Isle is the French wife of Henry Englehardt the American founder of Admiral Insurance. So who are David and Heather Stevens?

They, it turns out, are behind the Waterloo Foundation, a name that some may think unfortunate or insensitive given the involvement of Mme. Englehardt. The Waterloo Foundation was begun in 2007 with a donation of Admiral Group plc shares to the (then) value of £99m.

click to enlarge

And it all makes sense, for “clean water” is listed among the charity’s ambitions under ‘World Development‘. Which is why I was surprised not to find Hydro Industries listed under ‘Investments‘ and ‘Wales’ because the Foundation has definitely invested in Hydro.

And after the investment came a series of convoluted share reclassifications and allocations. Diane Marguerite Marie Briere De L’isle is named on the Companies House website as the person ‘with significant control’ from 21 August 2017. Preece, Lovering and Pickering cease to have significant control on the same day.

It’s not inconceivable, given Hydro’s links with Thales, that Mme. Englehardt joined Hydro in order to represent France’s interests.

Certainly Mme. Englehardt became a director of Hydro and appointed others to eventually outnumber the three musketeers. Among these newcomers was Guto Harri, Welsh language journalist and former PR guru for Boris Johnson.

The boys are still there, but maybe just for window dressing.

Predictably, perhaps, the Waterloo Foundation is a Patron of The Prince’s Trust. And why not, for The Prince’s Trust is based at Stradey Park. And wouldn’t you know it, the Chief Operating Officer for Hydro is Brigadier Rick Libbey . . . who used to run the The Prince’s Trust in Wales!

The links with the British establishment just keep coming, and of course Libbey provides another to the military-industrial complex, such as we find throughout this saga.

Which is easily explained. Major powers exert influence through ‘soft power’, which can mean aid to third world countries that just happen to have valuable natural resources or are of strategic importance.

What could be more caring and philanthropic than providing clean drinking water?

SUMMARY 

Up until the autumn of 2018 everything seemed to be hunky-dory with Dawnus, Hydro Industries, Swansea University, Thales, Legsun, etc, and there were exciting plans in the pipeline.

Here we are, six months later, and it’s all fallen apart. Perhaps some of those involved were strung along, and once they’d outlived their usefulness they became dispensable.

So what are we left with? Well, there’s Hydro, which I believe to be a ‘front’ company for some agency of the UK state; and then there’s the remains of Dawnus, run by someone who is almost certainly co-operating with the same shadowy elements.

If I’m right, then hundreds of Welsh workers, sub-contractors and suppliers were shafted by the UK Government, which either engineered the collapse of Dawnus or else accepted it as collateral damage. But we’re Welsh, we’re used to being shafted and exploited.

What is unforgivable is that this damage was inflicted on Wales with the support of the self-styled ‘Welsh Government’ and, especially, that of Carwyn Jones.

♦ end ♦

 

Dawnus

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

A story that’s taken up a lot of column inches and air time recently is the collapse of contractors Dawnus; which is sad in so many ways; lost jobs, another blow for my home town, and public money down the Swanee. (Or, in this case, the Tawe.) It’s this final consideration that seems to have exercised the minds of our tribunes and our scribblers.

But the interest has been only superficial.

Here’s a piece from the Wasting Mule that seems satisfied to learn that two million pounds from a ‘Welsh Government’ loan of three and a half million has been returned, with the spokesperson confident that they’d soon see the balance.

click to enlarge

From reading that article you might get the impression that there’s a single company called Dawnus which received just one loan. The truth is rather different, and quite confusing.

MORE THAN JUST A COMPANY

There are no less than 10 companies bearing the Dawnus name (with another dissolved). Then there are other companies also operating out of Unit 7 Dyffryn Court, Riverside Business Park, Swansea Vale, SA7 0AP, not far from Junction 45 of the M4.

The full list of Dawnus companies with dates of their formation is:

  1. Dawnus Construction Holdings Limited (Originally Dawnus Construction Ltd) (07.06.2001)
  2. Dawnus Ltd (21.02.2002)
  3. Dawnus Sierra Leone Ltd (Originally Dawnus Developments Ltd) (14.01.2003)
  4. Dawnus International Ltd (Originally Dawnus Plant Ltd) (23.01.2003)
  5. Churchfield Homes Ltd (Originally Dawnus Homes Ltd) (06.01.2004)
  6. Dawnus Developments Ltd (Originally Dawnus Holdings Ltd) (20.10.2004)
  7. Construction Recyclate Management Ltd (Originally Dawnus Northern Ltd) (02.08.2005)
  8. Quantum Geotechnical Ltd (Originally Construction Geotechnical Ltd) (22.09.2011)
  9. Dawnus Holdings Ltd
  10. Dawnus Southern Ltd (08.04.2011)
  11. Dawnus Commercial Management Ltd (1) (20.02.2013 – 09.06.2015)
  12. Dawnus Group Ltd (02.09.2013)
  13. Dawnus Commercial Management Ltd (2) (24.08.2015)
  14. Dawnus Consulting Ltd (18.05.2018)
  15. Dawnus International Group Ltd (22.03.2019)

A number of things struck me when compiling that list. First, the sheer number of companies. Second, the way names seem to switch within the group. Third, Dawnus Commercial Management Ltd, why did it dissolve in June 2015 and resurrect in August, with the same director, Andrew Keay?

Come to that, who is Andrew Keay and why is he using the Dawnus name? All I know at the moment is that he also had his own company, Keay Cost Value Engineering Ltd, and this also went belly-up in July 2015.

Then, last Friday, a new company was formed, Dawnus International Group Limited, with its address given as, ‘c/o Acuity Legal Limited, 3 Assembly Square, Britannia Quay, Cardiff CF10 4PL’.

Acuity Law is well-connected in Cardiff Bay, and also with the higher levels of officialdom in Wales. Which explains why they’re lawyers for Carmarthenshire CEO Mark James. And they’ve done a great job of defending – nay, burnishing! – his reputation. Acuity will in no small part be responsible for the outpouring of communal grief that will accompany James’ retirement in June.

Of course most companies begin life using the address of an accountant or a lawyer before changing to a more permanent address, but I just find it significant that in this case it should be Acuity Law.

Now let us turn to loans made to Dawnus. Yes, there’s more than one.

WHO OWES WHAT, AND TO WHOM?

The newspaper article I reproduced above tells us that the Cardiff Bay management team made a loan of £3.5 million to ‘Dawnus’ of which two million has been repaid. So there shouldn’t be much to worry about. Mmm . . .

Except that . . .

  • Working our way down the list of Dawnus companies in the order seen in the previous section we find two outstanding charges against Dawnus Construction Holdings Ltd with ‘the Welsh Ministers’, delivered 28.03.2018, both part-cleared 02.07.2018. (Do these part-cleared charges account for the repaid £2m?)
  • There is one outstanding charge against Dawnus Ltd delivered 28.03.2018.
  • There is one outstanding charge against Dawnus Sierra Leone Ltd, delivered 06.04.2018.
  • There is one outstanding charge against Dawnus International Ltd, delivered 28.08.2018.
  • There is one outstanding charge against Churchfield Homes Ltd, delivered 28.03.2018.
  • There is one outstanding charge against Dawnus Developments Ltd, delivered 28.03.2018.
  • There is one outstanding charge against Quantum Geotechnical Ltd, delivered 28.03.2018.
  • There is one outstanding charge against Dawnus Southern Ltd, delivered 28.08.2018.
  • There is one outstanding charge against the Dawnus Group Ltd, delivered 28.03.2018.

So there are at least three charges.

But we need to be careful because when querying similar charges – with the Development Bank for Wales – for a number of companies run by the same individual, and asking why a company based in London had received funding, I was initially given the ‘group’ answer.

click to enlarge

But in the example I was querying there was no group, just many companies run by the same guy, Jimbo Lynch of Cardigan (for it is he!).

And then I checked with Companies House and wondered why alarm bells didn’t ring in Cardiff when this appeared on the document –

click to enlarge

Beachbay is a company that has bought and runs property in London, it should never have received funding from what was then Finance Wales. I’m now waiting for another excuse explanation.

It’s obviously much easier to make the ‘group’ argument with Dawnus, but if so, then which is the parent company? And even if the group explanation holds, there are still at least three outstanding charges; two delivered on 28.03.2018, and one on 06.04.2018 to Dawnus Sierra Leone Ltd.

Though this last one raises the question of whether the Development Bank for Wales should be funding a company that presumably operates in west Africa.

Newspaper and media reports give the impression there is just one company, yet we know there are many using the Dawnus name. This BBC Wales report only confuses matters further by (at the foot) introducing a company called Dawnus Liberia, which I can’t find anywhere.

Though an internet search for Dawnus Liberia turned up this article which mentions Legsun Building Services. The company is actually called Legsun Ltd, and is based in Cardiff. When I checked the Legsun directors I saw the names Timothy Alun Lowe and Nicholas Charles Down, names I recognised from the Dawnus companies.

In fact, Down was appointed to the boards of 12 companies at the Dawnus address on March 10/12 last year. Some of these companies do not carry the Dawnus name but are presumably part of the group. Companies like Ashridge Construction Ltd, Pond Bridge Management Company Ltd, Dyffryn Court Management Ltd and Medrus Plant Hire Ltd (that began life in 2011 as Port Talbot Tyres). To confuse matters, there is also Medrus Plant Hire (Swansea) LLP.

Apart from the LLP all the companies have charges against them – or are covered by the group charge – held by ‘the Welsh Ministers’ and delivered 28.03.2018, just two weeks after Down became a director for most of them.

Let us return to Legsun for a moment, where we found both Lowe and Down serving as directors. The accounts to 31.12.2017 record a loss of £4,147,000 on turnover of £9,298,000, compared with £1,184,000 and £17,496,000 respectively for the previous year.

Yet despite apparently being up Shit Creek, Legsun was able to settle three charges on March 14 with the National Westminster Bank, the very day it was announced that Dawnus was in administration. Did the money come from Dawnus Group Ltd, as is suggested in the extract below from the accounts?

click to enlarge

And if so, was it simply moving money beyond the reach of creditors, or was there something else going on?

Nicholas Charles Down first appears in April 2016 as a director of three companies – Dawnus Southern, Dawnus Construction Holdings and Ashbridge Construction. In November we find him as one of the original designated members of Medrus Plant Hire (Swansea) LLP. He joins Dawnus Group Ltd in February 2017, and finally, as we’ve just seen, he becomes director of a whole raft of companies in March 2018, including Legsun.

So who is Nicholas Charles Down? Well, here’s his Linkedin profile which tells us that before joining Dawnus he was managing director of Laing O’Rourke for three and a half years.

click to enlarge

You’ll note that Down’s Linkedin profile says he became a director of ‘Dawnus Construction Ltd’ in October 2015, but that name was not used after October 2013; Companies House tells us he became a director of Dawnus Construction Holdings Ltd 15.04.2016.

How do we account for this discrepancy? Was he there ‘undercover’ from October 2015 before becoming a registered director in April 2016? It’s possible, because according to his Linkedin profile he left his previous post at Laing O’Rourke in June 2015.

Though I can’t find Down listed as a director for any Laing O’Rourke company.

Someone else who got involved around the same time was Albert James Barclay, a Scot, who was director of Carillion Construction (West Indies) Ltd from June 2005 until August 18, 2017. That company was wound up in November 2018, a casualty of the more general collapse of the Carillion group.

Barclay has been, since 12.03.2018, a director of Dawnus Construction Holdings Ltd and, since 25.08.2017, a designated member of Medrus Plant Hire (Swansea) LLP.

ALL PRESENT AND ACCOUNTED FOR?

The reason I decided to write this piece is because someone contacted me with rather disturbing information. As I’ve hinted, Dawnus did a great deal of work in west Africa, principally Sierra Leone.

This work was badly hit by the outbreak of Ebola, which began in January 2014. As a result of which a great deal of heavy machinery was shipped back to Wales and parked up in the Dawnus yard in Clydach.

One source insists that this heavy equipment accounted for a considerable part of the Dawnus group’s assets.

About a week ago someone popped down to the yard and mooched around a bit. It seems there’s a new security firm from Carmarthen on site and so the guard he spoke with couldn’t tell him much. But my mate wandered around, looked through the fence and estimated that the yard had room for a hundred or so sizeable machines, but there were only five there. It was clear that many of the spaces had recently been vacated.

Perhaps the intention always was that this equipment would return to Africa, and that’s what I’m told happened towards the end of last year when almost all the equipment was shipped out again, presumably back to Sierra Leone.

click to enlarge

Which means that at a time when everybody – including suppliers, sub-contractors and ‘Welsh Government’ – knew that Dawnus was in deep, deep trouble, big money assets were leaving the country.

I can’t help but wonder if the numbers given on the part-repayment made by Dawnus Construction Holdings Ltd refers to heavy machinery. If so, then the part-repayment might have cleared them to be exported from August or September onwards.

But was Peter being robbed to pay Paul? Or to put it bluntly, could the loan in April – that no one seems to talk about – have funded the part-repayment in July?

This almost certainly links to the one constant in the Dawnus media reports, which say UK work has stopped but ‘overseas operations will continue’, or that only group companies operating in the UK are in the hands of the receivers.

But with a Byzantine structure like the Dawnus group of companies who knows what’s what? Does the ‘Welsh Government’ know which companies are in receivership? For nothing is filed yet with Companies House to say that any Dawnus company is in receivership.

TRYING TO PUT IT ALL TOGETHER

If Sierra Leone and Ebola were the undoing of Dawnus, then the problems started at the beginning of 2014. But in fairness, Dawnus didn’t just cut and run; no, the company stayed and helped fight the outbreak. And the UK Government also sent help, including military personnel.

Image courtesy of Imperial War Museum, click to enlarge

Let’s put together a little timeline to help us make sense of the events leading up to the Dawnus collapse and subsequent happenings:

  1. Up to 2013 things seem to be going well, at home and in Africa
  2. January 2014, Ebola outbreak begins in Sierra Leone
  3. Heavy equipment is moved from Sierra Leone to Wales
  4. The company’s financial health starts to suffer
  5. Late 2015/early 2016, Nick Down appears
  6. March 2018, the ‘Welsh Ministers’ loan Dawnus £3m
  7. April 2018, there is a further loan specific to Dawnus Sierra Leone Ltd
  8. From August/September 2018 Dawnus becomes noticeably slower in paying suppliers and sub-contractors
  9. From September 2018, it is reported that heavy equipment is leaving Swansea for Sierra Leone.
  10. March 13/14 2019, it is announced that Dawnus is in the hands of receivers
  11. March 14, 2019, loss-making Legsun satisfies three charges
  12. March 22, Dawnus International Group Ltd registered with Companies House

So what does that tell us? To begin with, it doesn’t tell us how or why – or at whose request? – Nicholas Charles Down got involved with Dawnus. One source is adamant that everything started to go pear-shaped with his arrival. Though I suspect that the writing was on the wall and Down was brought it to sort things out.

Turning to the ‘Welsh Ministers’. It’s obvious that their loan (or loans) is linked with Down taking control of so many companies in March 2018. It’s equally clear that this was never going to be enough to save the Dawnus group, it was just enough money to keep it limping along for a while.

Long enough for Dawnus to be restructured and the heavy equipment moved back to Africa. Though the ‘Welsh Government’ must have been aware of this, for it almost certainly explains the further loan, in April 2018, to Dawnus Sierra Leone Ltd. Should this loan have ever been made?

Among the known unknowns is new company Dawnus International Group Ltd, for the directors are names previously associated with the Dawnus group. So is the new company challenging the new regime?

Whatever street-fighting may still be going on in the ruins of Dawnus this whole business reflects very badly on the ‘Welsh Government’. For Dawnus was a major Welsh company and serious investment might have saved the group, but the miserably inadequate contribution made only delayed the inevitable. And the ‘Welsh Government’ knew that when it made the loans.

When I think of the money showered on every crook and chancer who crosses the border with a half-baked idea scrawled on the back of a fag packet it makes me angry to see that nothing was done to save a major Welsh company already in business, with good contracts, providing work for hundreds of our people.

Instead, the self-styled ‘Welsh Government’ appears to have encouraged, facilitated, and perhaps funded, the demise of Dawnus. The only question remaining is, was this done through malice or incompetence?

At the end of the day, for all those who’ve suffered, does it really matter?

♦ end ♦