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 ♦

 




Gavin Lee Woodhouse, the picture darkens

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

Yes, I know I’ve promised Weep for Wales 13, and I’m working on it (there’s just so much to process), but fresh information on Gavin Lee Woodhouse justifies another post on the wonder boy of the Afan Valley Adventure Resort. (The AVAR website is ‘currently under maintenance’.)

WHERE WE LEFT OFF . . .

At the end of last month I published Gavin Lee Woodhouse, the ‘Wolf of Wharf Street’ – you were warned!, with this piece following earlier postings of mine going back to April 2017, and more recent interest from the Guardian and ITV News.

There have been a number of follow-ups by both media outlets, with these being the most recent I can find: Serious Fraud Office assesses Gavin Woodhouse businesses in Thursday’s Guardian; with the same headline used by ITV News.

It is understood by all that Woodhouse operates by selling. or more usually leasing, rooms at hotels he owns. Had he been able to proceed with the Afan Valley Adventure Resort then he would have been selling/leasing more hotel rooms there, plus lodges or cabins. In fact, they were already being advertised, even though nothing’s been built. So have any been sold?

FISHGUARD

In my earlier piece I also said that I was unable to find the title document for the Fishguard Bay Hotel on the Land Registry website. I kept getting a ‘too many titles’ message which I attributed to rooms having been sold.

A recent comment to this blog assured me that the title document could be found, and eventually – by a counter-intuitive method I won’t bore you with by explaining – I did find it.

Fishguard Bay Hotel. Image courtesy of County Echo. Click to enlarge.

It tells us that the Fishguard Bay Hotel (actually in Goodwick) was bought 13 July 2017 for £966,720 by Wyncliffe House Hotel Ltd (formerly Fishguard Bay Hotel Ltd) a company formed 1 May 2016. We see that the company was formed over a year before Woodhouse actually bought the hotel, so presumably he was in negotiations. Or even on site prior to purchase?

If you scroll down on the title document you’ll see that leases for 45 rooms were sold in 2017. All of them 125-year leases, and irrespective of the date of sale all leases started on New Year’s Day.

Now obviously I couldn’t buy the title documents for all the rooms, so I limited myself to five. Which was enough to pique my curiosity. For the titles I bought, the prices range from £45,000 to £70,000.

All bar one were sold between 13 July 2017 and 28 September 2017; with the outrider sold 13 March 2018. Which could suggest impressive sales techniques, or even buyers already lined up.

Of the five, just one hints that it belongs to a genuine, small-time, private investor. This was the title document for an SSAS, which stands for Small Self-administered (pension) Scheme. The other four – certainly, three – looked iffy.

Judge for yourselves with the panel below made up of the relevant details from four of the five room title documents supplied by the Land Registry.

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The top two, one in Slovakia and the other in Poland, are impossible to check. They could be genuine buyers or they could be names plucked out of thin air, or from some database.

The two on the bottom supply UK addresses, but even so, something’s not right. The one on the left gives a Dubai address and ’24 Cheapside, Wakefield’. The one on the right gives a Welsh address, but also uses the Wakefield address. So what do we find at 24 Cheapside?

It’s a commercial building, with a number of tenants, among them the ‘Williams & Co’ mentioned in the document for the Dubai buyer. This is a firm of solicitors and everything seems to be kosher. My one concern being that the website does not give a Companies House number.

And then I stumbled on Williams & Co (Cleckheaton) Ltd, a company formed in January 2018. It’s registered at the address given on the Williams & Co website, with two directors and a further two shareholders.

Also found at 24 Cheapside, Wakefield is Immigration Advice Service (IAS), whose website, some might think, tries to give the impression that IAS is a UK government department, but it is in fact a private company.

Though, curiously, under ‘Nature of business (SIC)’, for IAS Companies House has: “69109 – Activities of patent and copyright agents; other legal activities not elsewhere classified”. What the the hell do patents and copyright have to do with immigration advice?

Immigration Advice Service was also registered as a charity, number 1033192. In fact, the company may be a ‘phoenix’ that grew out the defunct charity.

The cynic in me thinks that a company like IAS would be a great source of names and addresses for potential overseas buyers for hotel room leases . . . or even just names and addresses.

Others may argue that I’m clutching at straws here, but Woodhouse once had a company called MBI Immigration Services Ltd. So at the very least, he would appear to have shown interest in this line of business.

Let us head north now, to the Caer Rhun hotel in the Conwy valley.

CAER RHUN

Let’s go straight to the title document, where we see that this hotel was bought for £1,500,000 with a loan from North West Asset Finance Ltd, which has a registered address in Todmorden, Lancashire, hard up to the frontier. I have stood there myself more than once and gazed into Yorkshire.

North West Asset Finance is hardly a rival to the big boys, for it’s a one-man band and the solitary director is Robert Ashley Hall. All the shares are owned by Shays Assets Ltd, another Hall company that takes its name from what I assume to be his home address, Shays Farm, near Skipton.

Caer Rhun. Image courtesy of Hitched. Click to enlarge.

Both companies were formed 11 February 2014, around the time Woodhouse embarked on his hotel-buying spree. While the accounts suggest that the only real asset may be the money loaned to Gavin Woodhouse to buy Caer Rhun.

Which made me wonder whether Hall and Woodhouse are known to each other. Sure enough, they are in business together. In a company called Gramra Ltd, formed by Hall 2 January 2018, which Woodhouse joined 13 June 2018.

When we look at who owns the shares in Gramra we find that at least half are owned by Woodhouse through the company Woodhouse Family Ltd, which has the controlling interest.

Woodhouse Family Ltd, where we find Gavin Woodhouse as sole director since his wife resigned last month when the shit hit the fan. For this company is alleged to have been the ultimate depository of some investors’ money, rather than the companies to which the money was ostensibly paid.

Shareholders in Gramra Ltd. Click to enlarge.

Returning to Caer Rhun, we find that 125-year leases have been sold on 57 rooms. Again, I downloaded the title documents for just five, and in price these range from £75,000 to £170,000. All were sold between July 2016 and August 2017.

The buyers we find in Bristol, Birmingham, and rather more exotic locations. Here are the three beyond these shores. Even if we accept that the one on the left refers to a UK couple living in Spain, that still leaves buyers in Italy and Taiwan.

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To have so many overseas buyers is not in itself cause for alarm, but I can’t believe that someone in Taiwan or Dubai or Slovakia woke up one bright morning and said to himself or herself, ‘I know! – I’ll buy a hotel room in Wales!’ 

We all know about Arab sheikhs and Russian oligarchs paying millions for London mansions, so is a room from which you can watch the Rosslare ferry the fag-end of the market?

Joking aside, maybe the real questions are:

  1. Do these overseas buyers really exist?
  2. If they do, did they really pay any money or are their names being used?
  3. And if they did pay money, where did that money come from?
  4. And where did it go?

BELMONT HOTEL

As far as I can make out, Gavin Lee Woodhouse, through his various companies, owns six hotels in Wales. It’s reasonable to assume that the same business model of selling the leases on individual rooms is found in all of them. That is certainly the case at the Fourcroft Hotel in Tenby (aka Carmarthen Bay Hotel) and the Belmont Hotel in Llandudno.

I want to focus on the Belmont.

From the title document, we see that it was bought in 2015 by MBI Heritage Hotel Ltd (now Belmont Hotel Ltd) for £381,250. Though in the latest accounts it’s valued at £2.62m and shows a profit of £1.55m. Though as the Guardian told us, the increased valuations on other hotels are even more dramatic.

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At the Belmont, leases for 26 rooms were sold, all of them in an impressively short time in 2015, so another gold star for the sales team. I haven’t bought any title documents for these sales because I’ve already splashed out £36 on Woodhouse, and I’m sure the picture will be little different to what we found at Fishguard and Caer Rhun.

But what appears to be different at the Belmont is, first, that Woodhouse does not own the Belmont (I think it’s owned by Mostyn Estates), he only leases it. Which means he’s selling leases in a property he himself leases.

Click to enlarge.

Which raises the question of whether Mostyn Estates Ltd is aware of this interesting development. Or whether it’s even legal.

What also struck me about the Belmont was that there are three charges outstanding. The first, from 2015, is for Mysing Properties Ltd, which changed its name to Mysing Capital Ltd before two further loans in December 2018.

But why would Woodhouse need to take out loans on the Belmont, a property he’s leasing, and for which he’s more than covered his outlay with the sale of the rooms?

Whatever the answer, Mysing is based in Wakefield, on Woodhouse’s patch; where we earlier saw hotel room buyers linked to the Wakefield solicitors, Williams & Co. The latest unaudited abridged accounts for Mysing paint a very healthy picture, with net current assets of £16,501,830 and total net assets of £1,475,344. The difference accounted for by creditors owing £14,977,000. Creditors, presumably, like Gavin Lee Woodhouse.

But from where does Mysing Capital – a company only formed in July 2014 – get that kind of money? ‘Unaudited abridged accounts’ tell us very little. And it’s perfectly legal.

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There’s no question in my mind that the directors of Mysing Capital are known to Woodhouse, and that these ‘loans’ may not be the kind of loans you or I are familiar with.

UPDATE 15.07.2019: Mysing Capital links with a string of Mysing companies, many of which are in the care home business (as of course was Woodhouse). But these other companies seem to have been formed after Mysing Capital.

Which still leaves the question of where the original Mysing Capital money came from.

In addition to the loans and mortgages taken out with Mysing towards the end of last year Woodhouse took out other loans around the same time, these with the equally mysterious Fiduciam Nominees Ltd. Why do I call this lot ‘mysterious’?

Well, after reading this at the foot of their website, how would you describe them?

“The content of this website has not been approved by an authorised person within the meaning of the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000. Fiduciam does not enter into regulated credit agreements within the meaning of the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000 (Regulated Activities) Order 2001.”

Fiduciam is a lender of last resort. If your bank turns you down you go to a company like Fiduciam. Which, as the Companies House entry tells us is in the business of ‘financial intermediation’.

This means that it finds borrowers for people who have money to lend. We can see who the borrowers are, but who are the lenders? Well, if we go to the latest available accounts, we read at the bottom of page 10:

Click to enlarge

“The directors (of Fiduciam) deem BWCI Pension Trustees to be the ultimate controlling party”. ‘Deem’? Aren’t they sure? Anyway, here’s the website for BWCI Pension Trustees Ltd.

Now don’t get me wrong, what Fiduciam and BWCI do may be perfectly legal (in an offshore kind of way), but – as with Mysing – where does the money originally come from that they loan to people like Woodhouse?

In the case of Fiduciam we’re asked to believe it’s pension funds, but in practice there’ll be few questions asked if a drugs baron, oligarch or member of a third world kleptocracy washes up in the Channel Islands looking for a good investment for his ‘pension pot’.

What we can say for certain is that in December last year, the nearest vehicles Woodhouse has to parent companies, Northern Powerhouse Developments Ltd and Giant Hospitality Ltd got themselves heavily indebted to a company that finds desperate borrowers for offshore lenders whose money could come from anywhere.

Why did he need the money? Was it for the Afan Valley venture? If so, then Woodhouse is now well and truly up that narrow waterway known colloquially as Shit Creek, with his business model exposed in the mass media, creditors beating on his door, and the Afan Valley Adventure Resort a fast receding dream.

Though the local council leader in Neath Port Talbot is bewailing the loss as though it’s somebody else’s fault! But then, that’s ‘Welsh’ Labour for you – always somebody else’s fault.

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My response was summed up in a tweet I put out on Saturday to accompany the article: “Listen, Rob, if you and your mates down Corruption Bay had done the basic checks into Gavin Woodhouse and you would have laughed him away and wouldn’t be ‘disappointed’ now. You’ve got no one to blame but your council and .”

EPILOGUE

When I first encountered Gavin Lee Woodhouse I thought he was a bit of a lad who’d over-reached himself. (As opposed to an out-and-out bastard like Paul Williams who ‘succeeded’ him at Plas Glynllifon.) Now I worry that there may be darker elements to his business ventures.

The foreign buyers for so many of his hotel rooms certainly start the alarm bells a-trembling. As does the lack of information about his financial backers.

But then, as I’ve said before, this is business, this is finance – English style. Where the City of London sits at the centre of a web of offshore tax havens and money-laundering centres that welcome anybody’s money. Once it’s in the system, with the origin disguised, that money can be used anywhere.

The Isle of Man and the Channel Islands are the oldest, and nearest of these centres.

But this does not excuse the ‘Welsh Government’, which obviously did no due diligence into Woodhouse before giving him £500,000 for Caer Rhun and then welcoming him with open arms when he ventured to the Afan valley.

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Unless of course they were over-ruled from London. (It happens regularly.) Which would make them complaisant rather than gullible. Is that an improvement?

So it’s good-bye Gavin Lee Woodhouse, and hello, . . ?

For you can guarantee that the next Gavin Lee Woodhouse is already here spinning his lies and courting the politicians. And he’s not alone.

In Return Journey Dylan Thomas goes home to a blitzed Swansea searching for the places and people he knew. Eventually he reaches Cwmdonkin Park, where the park keeper responds to his questions about a boy from long ago with, ‘I’ve known him by the thousands’.

I’m beginning to feel like that parkie, due to all the crooks infesting our country. They keep coming because we have thick-as-shit politicians more concerned with shagging and back-stabbing than with making Wales honest, healthy and prosperous.

And a media unworthy of the name.

♦ end ♦

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!