I’ve burdened you with a few heavyweight issues of late and now I’m going to make up for it with this relatively short piece in which I look at tourist tat, give a brief update on the Williams gang and new boy Myles Cunliffe in Weep for Wales 11a, before rounding off with an appeal for a better system than funding organisations that have no intention of ever dealing with the problem they’re paid to deal with.
As you know, every December I haul the old Jones carcass down to Cilmeri where the craic is good in the company of old comrades from the 1960s (though fewer every year), and this in no way detracts from the solemnity of the occasion, or the fiery speeches at the monument.
Among the regulars are some of our Breton cousins, one of them, Gwion, first came to Wales many, many years ago as a student teacher; a nice lad who unfortunately fell in with a bad crowd . . . that included myself. Ah! happy days.
After Cilmeri this year our Breton guests went to a number of castles and historic sites to soak up some history and culture before heading to St Fagan’s. Where they intended spending money on Welsh goods.
Among their purchases was a scarf, a red, Welsh scarf. This was left in the bag until they returned home . . . when the full horror of what had happened was revealed.
You’ll see that not only does this scarf carry the ‘Ich Dien’ logo of Charles Sachsen-Coburg und Gotha, but it was made in China! Yet the receipt insists it is a ‘Welsh’ scarf.
After receiving the information and the photographs I got to wondering who could be responsible, who was guilty of perpetrating this deception in our name, so I did some checking.
The receipt mentions ‘NMGW Enterprises Ltd’, but nothing comes up for that name on the Companies House website. Next stop was the website for National Museum Wales where, on the ‘Corporate Partnerships’ page (scroll down), I found this reference to NMGW Enterprises.
A bit more ferreting gave me the name I was looking for – Mentrau Amgueddfeydd ac Orieliau Cenedlaethol Cymru / National Museums & Galleries of Wales Enterprises Ltd. Here’s the Companies House entry.
A number of things concern me, and should concern anyone who cares about Wales.
First off, looking at the directors of NMGW Enterprises, there is a worrying lack of Welsh involvement. (Even the auditors are in Walsall!) Which might explain why tourist tat made in China is being passed off as Welsh and damaging our country’s reputation.
Seeing as NMGW Enterprises is owned by National Museum Wales I suggest that that body either reins in these cowboys or else removes from its website actionable lies about ‘Welsh-made products’. Preferably the former.
And because the ‘Welsh Government’ has ultimate responsibility for our museums and galleries – and may even have appointed the directors of NMGW Enterprises – I also expect to see some action from that quarter.
Wales is supposedly going for up-market tourism and yet, at one of our flagship visitor attractions, people are offered rubbish you’d expect to see sold by a spiv down from London to capitalise on a rugby or football international.
WEEP FOR WALES 11a
I have taken down what originally appeared here after receiving a hand-delivered letter after dark on the evening of March 26.
THE FALSE ECONOMY OF THE THIRD SECTOR
One defence of the third sector is that it ‘takes up the slack’ when central, devolved, or local government no longer provides a certain service, and to some extent that’s true.
But there may come a point when it would make more sense to take that responsibility back ‘in-house’, where a service might not only be provided for less in terms of financial outlay but also in a way that made it more transparent in its dealings, and open to public scrutiny.
This thought has occurred to me a number of times recently. And it came back to me yesterday when I read this pitch in the Western Mail for more funding from the CEO of a homelessness business.
Let’s start with the introduction, where it says, “Lindsay Cordery-Bruce, chief executive of Wales’ leading homelessness charity The Wallich, makes an impassioned call to recognise that our current systems of support to tackle the issue of rough sleeping in Wales clearly aren’t working”. And there are good reasons for why they aren’t working, as I shall explain.
After being introduced as CEO of “Wales’ leading homelessness charity” Ms Cordery-Bruce then, and rather confusingly, began her article with: “Across the UK, including in Wales . . . “. Why would the CEO of Wales’ biggest such charity, operating solely in Wales, and writing about homelessness in Wales, have to put her thoughts into a UK framework for a Welsh readership?
It makes no sense unless you appreciate that the Wallich, like most third sector bodies in Wales, operates in an Englandandwales framework, throwing Welsh money at what are often transferred English problems. (Housing associations are particularly guilty in this regard.)
But of course the Wallich is not alone, for as the ‘Welsh Government was only too pleased to tell me, there are no fewer than 48 homelessness charities / businesses operating in Wales.
I’m not for one minute suggesting that they’re all as big as the Wallich, but the Wallich is not without serious rivals. With all of them soaking up vast amounts of public funding. To illustrate my point let me walk you through the latest available accounts for the Wallich. (Keep this pdf file open in a separate window.)
Let’s start on page 8, where we see that the Wallich has £2,778,887 squirrelled away in investments. In addition, page 21 tells us that there is another £3,574,617 in readies. Whence cometh these shekels?
Well, page 29 informs us that in 2018 £7,981,735 came from the ‘Welsh Government’ and local authorities. Another £3,993,798 came from rents. This is clearly no hand-to-mouth charity, this is a serious commercial undertaking, and the commodity bringing in this money is homeless people.
That the Wallich is a big company and a major employer is made clear on page 31, where we learn that £8,019,182 went on staff costs (for 381 employees), of which Ms Cordery-Bruce herself pulled down £100,000+. (Though in the previous year the CEO who preceded Ms C-B seems to have been paid less than £80,000.)
To sum up, we have in Wales a homelessness industry made up of dozens of organisations, all reliant to a greater or lesser degree on public funding, and all with a vested interest in not solving the problem of homelessness because to do so would put them out of a job.
Which also means that if Wales cannot provide enough homeless then they will be brought in from England . . . as will the drug addicts, and the ex-cons, and the paedophiles and the problem families for housing associations and others.
Why does the ‘Welsh Government’ not put a stop to this obvious rip-off? Because there is electoral advantage to be gained from keeping Wales poor, which runs: ‘Look at all the homeless . . . see how poor Wales is? . . . it’s all the fault of them Tories . . . vote Labour!’
We have reached the stage where it would be far cheaper for the ‘Welsh Government’ to take direct responsibility in certain sectors currently exploited by an out-of-control third sector and bring down costs by actually solving the problem rather than by keeping it going for personal gain.
As promised, here’s the latest instalment in the Paul and Rowena Williams Against the World saga (for that’s how it begins to look). I had considered postponing this update, but so much information is coming in that I have to publish before I’m overwhelmed.
For those who don’t have time to read the previous ten episodes here’s a quick summary.
Paul Williams and his wife Rowena are two crooks who built up a property portfolio by dubious means and then sold those properties to themselves at insanely inflated valuations in order to obtain loans and mortgages well in excess of the properties’ true worth. This money of course they pocketed.
Soon after the phoney sales ‘ransom strips’ were detached from the properties and allocated to other titles. These properties were held by Leisure & Development Ltd, a company now in administration.
This portfolio included properties in Cornwall and Northumbria but the gang’s ‘heartland’ was Powys and over the border in Shropshire and Herefordshire.
Realising the game was up, and having pissed off just about everyone they ever dealt with in the March they severed their ties and physically removed themselves to the Realm of Eagles.
In a further attempt to wash their hands of things Paul and Rowena Williams went through the charade of selling their Leisure & Development Ltd property portfolio for £11m to old friend, and convicted fraudster, Keith Partridge.
Having introduced Keith Partridge there are other characters we’ve met along the way who are worthy of mention. There’s Paul Williams’ sister, Debra Oswald, who seems to slip in and out of this saga, having served as director, partner, accountant, even creditor.
Paul and Debra’s father Michael has a hotel business in Goa. (Though it may have been struck off.) It would be interesting to know how he gets on with the locals, because on issues of race and colour he is said to have been expelled from the KKK for being too racist.
We’ve already met one fraudster in the form of Keith Partridge, another in the ensemble is the Williams’ accountant John Duggan. And if that wasn’t enough, the Waves Bar in Cornwall is run for them by Stuart Paul Cooper, of whom more later.
Then there’s faithful Rikki Reynolds, who runs the Seiont Manor. He drinks too much, he is dependent on drugs, but they keep him on. I refuse to believe the rumour that this may have something to do with Rikki being close to Rowena.
Not to be overlooked is Dudley Cross. His Linkedin profile would have us believe that he works for property specialists Lambert Smith Hampton, but he’s been involved with Paul and Rowena Williams for many years. He served as a director (until 01.02.2018) of Leisure & Development Ltd, and even donned his peaked cap to act as guide for Plas Glynllifon’s open day in June.
It is widely believed that it was his – and perhaps more especially, LSH’s – imprimatur that persuaded lenders to accept the absurd valuations we shall soon examine in more detail.
In addition to being crooks, the Williams couple and Rikki Reynolds are repulsive individuals. They take pleasure in humiliating people. It sometimes seems that their greatest pleasure is derived from hurting those least able to defend themselves.
One such case was the treatment meted out to a kitchen porter at the Seiont Manor, a man with learning difficulties who had worked there for over twenty years, but Rowena Williams wanted him out.
It ended at an Employment Tribunal in September where the man was awarded £27,907.42 . . . money he is unlikely ever to see.
As might be expected, these odious creatures have been funded by the ‘Welsh Government’ and have received one uncritical report after another from the ‘Welsh’ media, with Owen Hughes of the Daily Post deserving of special mention.
Now read on.
PSST! WANNA BUY A HOTEL, GOIN’ CHEAP?’
So what have I got for you this time? Quite a lot as it happens.
First, let’s remind ourselves that the empire is crumbling and apart from the Gwynedd properties and a few outliers everything else seems to be in the hands of receivers and up for sale.
Let us focus on the two Powys properties, as we have for most of this saga. You will recall that these properties were sold by Paul and Rowena Williams to Leisure & Development Ltd, and the prices they claimed to have paid in 2015 were £2,881,599 for the Knighton and £3,487,049 for the Radnorshire.
RSM is now recommending sale prices of £550,000 (-£2,331,599) for the Knighton and £700,000 (-£2,787,049) for the Radnorshire. That’s a fall of £5,118,648 . . . and of course RSM might not even get the prices they’re suggesting, because there are plenty of pubs and hotels for sale at the moment, then there’s Brexit looming, maybe a general election . . .
How do we account for such a massive drop in valuations?
As I explained, the earlier valuations were dreamed up in order to get loans and mortgages for properties that Paul and Rowena Williams already owned, but pretended to buy through Leisure & Development Ltd.
Equally fictitious was the sale of those properties earlier this year for £11m to convicted fraudster Keith Harvey Part(d)ridge.
Which is how we end up in the bizarre position of Paul and Rowena Williams appearing as creditors to the tune of £11m of the company they claim to have sold to Part(d)ridge.
But then, there’s a certain symmetry to all this. Because if you can sell something to yourself why can’t you owe yourself money?
The only good news for Paul and Rowena Williams might be that Dyfed Powys Police are not pressing charges. Though quite what Plod was investigating in relation to “the sudden closure of hotels” previously owned by Paul and Rowena Williams is a mystery.
The only clue in the Daily Post report is “Tourism Investment Support Scheme grants”, which was never a runner.
FRESH NEWS, SAME OLD STORY
As I said earlier, I’ve received a steady trickle of information about Paul and Rowena Williams and their gang. Here are just some of the things I’ve been told since the previous instalment.
From an anonymous source:
“She (Rowena Williams) may well be autistic . . . She is morally empty, and I think that her son —— (who is a lovely lad) really deserves a more honest set of parents . . . I realise that this doesn’t really count as a story, but I was so annoyed at the Radnorshire Arms ending up like it is that I wrote to you . . . I was actually hurt by the experience . . . Please keep up the good work!”
A recent comment to Weep for Wales 9:
Message to my ‘Contact Me’ box:
“Message: before i start I wish to remain anonymous about what I say. from November 2016, to November 17, I worked as ————————– for rural retreats and leisure, I can comfirn that HMRC had in fact been in touch with the Williams’s prior, as in july 2017, myself, and all the other live in staff of the knighton hotel, where subject to an investigation, regarding how our rent was paid. after HMRC had come back with the decision that there had been wrong doings in regard to how our rent was being taken. they told the Williams’s that we were owed back pay, as they were taking rent out of our wages as a deduction of wage, not as actual rent, of which became clear that I was being paid below the national minimum wage. shortly after this, the Williams’s slowly starting to dispose of us. myself being fired for gross misconduct on made up allegations with no evidence whatsoever. they practically forced a family of 4 to find a new house in the area, and pushed the head chef in an attempt to get him to quit, effectively taking us all out of the equation. I have been following all of your weep for wales, and everything you have said makes complete sense. on the outside, Rowena pushes a persona of care for staff, but on the inside, both of them are only looking out for them selves. I hope this interests you in your continuing saga.”
(A source with inside information was able to tell me that the total amount owed to staff was £58,594.)
Something you soon learn about Paul Williams and the “morally empty” Rowena is that they don’t like paying staff, suppliers, tradesmen, anybody. What’s theirs is theirs . . . and what’s yours is also theirs.
It seems that creditors were encouraged to have meals and drinks at Paul and Rowena Williams’ establishments, with the cost then deducted from the amount they were owed. One source tells me of walking into the bar of the Knighton Hotel one time and seeing nine creditors quaffing away!
Just picture it! Barmaid: ‘Another large whisky, Mr Jones? That’ll be £76, and it brings the amount Mr Williams owes you down to £5,732.68 – you’ll soon be owing him!’
There is something surreal about such a scene, though trying to turn your creditors into alcoholics has a certain logic – they might forget about the debt!
And of course, another twist is that Paul Williams wasn’t paying for the booze anyway! I’ve heard one sad story of a rep from Molson Coors being threatened with physical violence for daring to ask for the money he was owed.
A documented example I can give of Williams not paying his debts arrived last week from Grafters Group Ltd, a company that supplies staff to hotels. This company eventually had to resort to court proceedings in the hope of getting the money owed by Paul and Rowena Williams. Needless to say, they’re still waiting.
Take Jac’s advice: If you’re selling to these buggers, supplying goods or doing work for them – make sure you’re paid in cash, up front, and then check the notes to make sure they’re genuine.
A number of times in this series I’ve mentioned the distressed Fronoleu hotel and restaurant at Tabor, outside Dolgellau, bought by Paul Williams at auction in 2015 for over £300,000 and paid for in cash. I also mentioned a seven-bedroom house alongside Fronoleu. Through another new source, I now know who lives there.
This person works for Paul Williams at the Seiont Manor, and as with so many other employees false declarations are made with regard to wages in order to save Paul and Rowena Williams money and cheat HMRC.
And yet, it seems Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs are aware of the Williams Gang’s tricks but are reluctant to move against them.
THE UGLIER SIDE
Paul and Rowena Williams are so transparently dishonest, so blatantly corrupt, that it’s difficult not to laugh at them, but there is a nastier side to the operation.
We’ve seen that the Waves Bar in Cornwall is for sale, with RSM asking for “offers in excess of £500,000”. Which seems reasonable, as it comes with “five apartments and a shop”. Though few things are straightforward with Williams, and the Waves Bar is no exception, for I’m told there are questions over the ownership of some of those apartments.
For some time now the Waves Bar has been run by Stuart Paul Cooper. Another associate with a colourful past. He came unstuck in 2012 when working as a debt collector. This Insolvency Service document suggests he then went on the lam.
But of course none of this was an obstacle to him being employed by Paul and Rowena Williams. Being a fraudster with a penchant for violence made Stuart Paul Cooper the kind of recruit they look for.
The latest news from Cornwall says that Cooper is behaving true to form. He recruits young staff, overworks them, underpays them, sacks them, and when they come asking for what they’re owed he threatens to kill them and anyone who dares to speak up for them.
Where the takings go from the Waves Bar is a good question. For there is a suspicion that since the collapse of Leisure & Development Ltd Cooper may be flying solo. Another question is whether suppliers are being paid.
But what really puzzles me is why liquidators RSM allow Cooper to remain at The Waves Bar, because the reputational damage this man is doing will not be put right by an ‘Under New Management’ sign.
A CAST OF CROOKS, THUGS AND SHYSTERS
You’ve met the leading players in this story, I’ve given you examples of what they’ve done and how they behave. I’m sure that like me you’re wondering why they aren’t behind bars where they belong.
For some reason the police, HMRC and others seem to look benignly on ‘white collar’ crime, they may even persuade themselves that such offences are ‘victimless’. But that’s wrong.
This gang has lied and cheated for years, and it’s not just banks and other lenders that have lost out. Decent, hard-working people – often vulnerable people – have been exploited, cheated of money they were owed, thrown onto the street, and put in fear of their lives when they sought redress.
But these gangsters laugh at us all as they drive around in their new Range Rovers and their Beemers with personalised number plates. They take us all for mugs.
There is something very wrong with the legal system of Englandandwales that it allows such people to go unpunished, and to prosper. It’s a system providing courts and tribunals that say, ‘Yes, we agree that these bastards owe you money, we’ll even fix the amount . . . but there’s nothing we can do to make them pay’.
While police and governmental agencies look the other way when criminal offences are brought to light.
We obviously need a different system; a better system; a Welsh system.
♦ end ♦
APOLOGY: I’m sitting on a number of good stories that I’m just unable to do justice to because I don’t have the time. Please understand that I’m not deliberately ignoring anyone, but as a one-man band with family and other commitments there’s only so much I can do.
In this latest episode I shall focus on two important matters. First, details of the liquidation of the Williams’ company Leisure & Development Ltd; followed by an Employment Tribunal held last month that saw a former employee of Paul and Rowena Williams given a substantial compensation package.
But first, let’s remind ourselves where we’re at in Gwynedd.
HOLDING OUT ON THE NORTHERN FRONT
In the previous episode I let my imagination run riot and presented you with the image of Paul Williams as Jean Gabin in Le Jour se Lève, holed up in his grubby little room waiting for the cops. But I may have jumped a scene or two because a northern source tells me that the crook may not be finished.
The great obstacle to development here is that Fronoleu can only be reached by the single-track lane running between Dolgellau and the Cross Foxes junction of the A487 with the A470. It’s highly unlikely that any traffic-increasing development will be allowed.
What my source directs me to on the sprawling Glynllifon estate is land and buildings owned by Grŵp Llandrillo Menai, operating Coleg Glynllifon. Specifically, the old stables, now used as the canteen. I’m assured that Williams is showing interest.
Grŵp Llandrillo Menai has said nothing throughout this saga, but unless there’s a rabbit to pulled from the hat it’s difficult to explain why Paul and Rowena Williams are hanging on at Glynllifon.
Unless it’s because they have nowhere else to go.
‘RANSOM STRIPS’ AND RE-ENTRY PROBLEMS
A feature of Paul and Rowena Williams’ behaviour is the practice of detaching a small section from a larger holding in order to make a separate title. This then compromises the value and desirability of the larger holding without the smaller section. And of course it correspondingly increases the value of that smaller section.
In such situations, the smaller section is usually referred to as a ‘ransom strip’. This situation can often occur quite unintentionally, but in the case of the Williamses it is deliberate.
This charge, 0938 9316 0007, taken out by Rural Retreats & Development Ltd as recently as July, helps explain what I’m talking about. You’ll see that it’s made up mainly of ‘ransom strips’, small pieces of land compromising larger plots.
Let me further explain what I’m talking about with a specific example.
One of Paul and Rowena Williams’ properties is/was the Castle Inn at Wigmore, just over the border in Herefordshire. If you look at this title plan it shows clearly the original boundary, but it’s equally obvious that a chunk has been taken out.
This was done in 2015, that year when new companies were being formed, properties being bought and sold.
The main part of the Castle Inn, title number HE53573, is owned by Leisure & Development Ltd, the company in liquidation. The ‘ransom strip’, title number HE31873, is owned by Rural Retreats & Development Ltd, of Plas Glynllifon, directors Paul and Rowena Williams.
Moving back to Powys and the Knighton Hotel, it might seem difficult if not impossible to own a ‘ransom strip’ affecting a substantial building slap in the middle of town. But they’ve done it.
The hotel comprises both the stone building you see on the left and the half-timbered building on the right.
Within the Knighton Hotel Paul and Rowena Williams own the ‘Norton Showroom’ on the ground floor at the far right, a flat above, and it’s also believed they have the run of the cellars. The flat is owned in their names and shown in blue in this title plan for the hotel. Here’s the title document for the showroom or shop.
In Presteigne, at the Radnorshire Arms Hotel, the Gruesome Twosome still owns the old garage building and car park directly opposite the hotel. I’m told that there was once a plan for four town houses on this plot.
This town houses plan seems to have been drawn up but never submitted for planning approval. And I’ve heard of other schemes that never took flight. All of which adds to the image of Paul Williams as a bit of a fantasist, or as I described him in the previous post, “a sinister kind of Walter Mitty”.
If they were to turn the Knighton Hotel shop into a dildo emporium, or allowed Travellers to set up camp in the Radnorshire Arms car park, Paul and Rowena Williams could make their former properties very unattractive to potential buyers.
But just owning these ‘ransom strips’ – coupled with their reputation for deviousness – may be enough to deter many buyers. And as I say, the situation we see today was planned years ago by slicing parts off the original titles, almost anticipating the scenarios I’m describing.
So I suppose that if nobody wanted to buy the properties, then Paul and Rowena Williams, or someone acting for them, might be able to buy them back very cheaply.
I’ve just mentioned Leisure & Development Ltd, the owner of these assorted properties being in receivership, so let’s consider the latest developments.
An administrator was appointed on August 18 and the administrator’s proposals became available on the Companies House website on September 20. These proposals are worth reading because they give quite a full run-down of the situation. Since then the proposals have been approved, though that document was not available on the CH website at the time of writing.
Under Section 2 ‘Events leading up to the administration’, we read that, “The various properties were purchased between July 2015 and February 2016 for a total sum of £11,887,828 (as per documents registered at the Land Registry).” But then we read, for year ending 31 January 2018, the company had fixed assets of £16,894,195 (against £23,119,820 the previous year). While in Appendix C we read that the book value of the freehold properties is £13,908,979.
Let’s look at the 2015 purchases. As we’ve seen, the properties ‘bought’ in 2015 were simply transferred from one Williams vehicle (usually their personal ownership) to another at greatly inflated prices in order to pull down mortgages and loans. For example, the stated purchase price of the Radnorshire Arms Hotel was £3,487,049. It’s worth a third of that on a good day.
Inflated purchase prices were part of the scam, a way of laundering money. But if the properties were bought in 2015 at ludicrously high prices how can their book value today be even higher? Are the administrators afraid to have independent valuations done?
And if the properties were grossly overvalued in 2015 at £11,887,828 where the hell does the fixed assets valuation for 2018 of £16,894,195 come from? (And £23,119,820 the year before!) The answer is, Paul and Rowena Williams’ trusty accountant, John Duggan, a convicted fraudster, who robbed an elderly widow of some £700,000.
In fact, the accounts for Leisure & Development Ltd are worth us dallying awhile. The first submitted accounts are for year ending 31 January 2016 and are the accounts for a dormant company, despite all the ‘purchases’ made in 2015. These accounts were submitted by Debra Oswald, Paul Williams’ sister.
The next accounts, up to 31 January 2017, come from the dancing quill of John Duggan. Now we see a figure of £23,119,820 in fixed assets, and £23,906,551 owed to creditors.
Those creditors reappear in the administrator’s report. First comes NatWest Bank plc, owed £6,202,405. Next in line is Together Commercial Finance (no sum stated). But Paul and Rowena Williams are also hoping for a strip of the carcass with a claim for no less than £11,751,698.
The money owed to Paul and Rowena Williams can only be the money from the ‘sales’ in 2015, when they sold properties to themselves at inflated valuations. Does this really count as an acceptable debt?
Think about it for a minute; what they’re saying, in effect, is: ‘We transferred properties from ourselves to a company we’d formed and of course we didn’t pay anything – it was just a scam to get mortgages and loans – but we’re still hoping someone will view us as legitimate claimants on the assets of our former company’.
This report we’ve looked at from the liquidators, RSM Restructuring Advisory LLP, is misleading as it relies on insane valuations and a fraudster’s figures. This is either a mistake on RSM’s part or else it suits someone’s agenda to accept the Williams narrative and the Duggan figures.
Spaceship Williams should return to Earth when potential buyers are asked to make offers for the various properties. I guarantee no one will offer anything like £3.5m for the Radnorshire Arms, irrespective of whether the McGillycuddy clan is enjoying a hoolie in the car park.
STRAIGHT OUTTA DICKENS
I have commented many times on the contemptuous way in which Paul and Rowena Williams treat those who work for them, and being an absolute bastard is something that also comes easy to their trusted lieutenant, Rikki Reynolds.
And it’s not just those who work for them that suffer; it’s neighbours, suppliers, and just about anybody else they can take advantage of. The Williams pair and Reynolds believe they can do whatever they like, to whoever they like, whenever they like, with no consequences.
They often take a sadistic pleasure in humiliating people.
I think I may have mentioned a kitchen porter at the Seiont Manor Hotel, a man with learning difficulties, who was forced out last year after working there for over 22 years. Now I can give you more details and also tell you how that story developed.
The background is that Rowena Williams intimidated this poor man into accepting a reduction in his weekly hours from 30 to 9 and then dismissed him on August 9 2017. He went to the Citizens Advice Bureau and it all ended up with an Employment Tribunal at Mold on September 5 this year.
Below you’ll see a financial summary of the verdict, and you can read the full document here, with the claimant’s name and the case number redacted.
As I say, the tribunal took place on September 5, and as you read the Judgment you’ll see that Rural Retreats & Leisure Ltd has 14 days from the ‘calculation day’ of September 7 to pay the stipulated sum. If no payment is made within this period then interest of 8% starts accruing.
You’ll note that no one from the Williams side turned up at Mold County Court, which is how they operate – they ignore letters and demands, they refuse to attend arranged meetings, they find excuses for not having complied with instructions: ‘Oh, we didn’t realise’ . . . ‘Nobody told us’ . . . ‘Obviously a misunderstanding’.
It’s the old tactic of ignoring something long enough in the hope it’ll go away; which it often does when you’re dealing with local authorities and the ‘Welsh’ Government.
You’ll also note that the judgment was made against Rural Retreats & Leisure Ltd, yet this company changed its name on March 17 2015 to Polvellan Manor Ltd. And before becoming Rural Retreats & Leisure Ltd in 2007 it was Mortimers Cross Inn Ltd, formed in 2002, this being the Williams’ original company, and indeed their only company until 2015.
Seeing as this was the company name on the dismissed kitchen porter’s pay slips it means that Paul and Rowena Williams were still using a company name that had been changed over two years earlier. Is this legal?
Paul and Rowena Williams were directors until April 1 2018, when they stepped down, maybe in the hope of escaping the impending employment tribunal. The sole director now is the ever-obliging, convicted fraudster, Keith Partridge, who took over on the same day as Paul and Rowena Williams ceased to be directors.
Whatever the motives for recently putting Partridge in charge, the fact remains that when the offences dealt with by the employment tribunal were committed in 2017 the only directors of Rural Retreats & Leisure Ltd/Polvellan Manor Ltd were Paul and Rowena Williams.
But you still have to wonder why Partridge agreed to let his name be used as skipper of the Titanic when the iceberg was already in sight.
It should go without saying that the former Seiont Manor kitchen porter is not optimistic about getting his money. Which is a sad reflection on the Englandandwales legal system, because I believe the law should provide some guarantee of payment.
I shouldn’t think that this invalidates the decision. After all they’re both Williams companies, but it does remind us of the danger of dealing with companies with very similar names. And of course, it’s why shysters like Williams have companies with confusingly similar names.
The current situation can be summed up as follows:
Paul and Rowena Williams are holed up at Plas Glynllifon, a massive pile they have estimated will cost £20m to refurbish.
Apart from Plas Glynllifon they have no (known) assets other than assorted ‘ransom strips’, abandoned Fronoleu, and the Seiont Manor Hotel, with the latter being run into the ground by drug-dependent Rikki Reynolds (who is indulged because he knows where the bodies are buried).
And now I hear that HMRC is also taking an interest.
In last week’s post, Plaid Cymru’s enemy within, in speaking of Anne Greagsby, I wrote, “I can’t say I know Anne Greagsby, I’ve met her just once . . . she was in good company, which I’m old-fashioned enough to believe is a useful indicator of a person’s character.”
That holds true for everyone, and when we look at Paul and Rowena Williams, who do we find them associating with? Well, there’s Rikki Reynolds, and I have been told stories about this bastard that I would love to tell, but in doing so I might compromise a source. I just wish I was free to tell you about the gardener.
Paul and Rowena Williams’ accountant is convicted fraudster John Duggan. Long-time associate and business partner, the man who supposedly bought now liquidated Leisure & Development Ltd, and who has also agreed to be sole director of Polvellan Manor Ltd is Keith Partridge, another convicted fraudster.
Down in Cornwall, running the Waves Bar for them, we found Stuart Paul Cooper – yet another fraudster! And who is the mysterious Michael Jones, sole director of Rural Retreats & Leisure UK Ltd? I’m prepared to bet that he has an interesting biography. Then we have Paul Williams’ sister, Debra Oswald, and his parents with their iffy hotel business in India.
Finally, there is Dudley James Cross, whose Linkedin profile says he works for property company Lambert Smith Hampton, but he’s been an associate of Paul Williams since at least 2008, he was even showing people around Plas Glynllifon on the Open Days in June, and he has served as a director of the company now in liquidation, Leisure & Development Ltd. It is widely believed that he had a hand in the absurd valuations of the properties Paul and Rowena Williams ‘sold’ to themselves in 2015.
These are not business people who’ve taken ‘short cuts’ or made the odd mistake; these are not honest folk who fell in with rogues – these are crooks, pure and simple. They should be behind bars.
It’s been a while since I wrote the previous instalment in this saga, August 6th to be precise, and even though I have no earth-shattering revelations for you, it’s clear that we are moving towards a conclusion.
In addition to this latest post being an update on the saga, I shall also use it to give some thought to what this incredible story tells us about the state of modern Wales. Basically, how the hell did Paul and Rowena Williams and their associates get away with so much for so long?
Because irrespective of what now happens to those you’ve been reading about over the past few months there are others who have questions to answer, and I might as well do the asking, because nobody else will.
WHY DID THEY GET A FREE RIDE?
The Daily Post‘s involvement in this saga is quite extraordinary in its willingness to publish any old nonsense. I have drawn up a list of the DP’s articles on Plas Glynllifon and the other Gwynedd properties since Paul and Rowena Williams first became involved.
Starting with this article on 10 June 2016 telling us that the mystery owner of Plas Glynllifon – speaking through property company Lambert Smith Hampton (LSH) – said that the renovation would take three years, and would cost an estimated £5m.
The new year brought this piece on 22 February 2017 in which the Daily Post was graciously granted access, to be told by Rowena Williams, “We hope that the project will hold dear to the Prince of Wales, who enjoyed his investiture ball here and also takes a very keen interest in our heritage and historic properties such as Glynllifon. We hope that he will be an asset to the project.”
We were not informed if Carlo had been asked to cough up a few quid towards the “£5.5 to £6.5” needed for the restoration. Maybe it wasn’t needed, for a finance package had been agreed with “Together in Manchester”. And Team Williams was also “in talks with the Welsh Government about grant support”.
On 23 May 2017 we learnt that the owners of Plas Glynllifon had enlisted the help of Lord Newborough (whose family pile Plas Glynllifon had once been), and also helping Paul Williams were “Bangor University, the Institute for the Study of Welsh Estates (at Bangor Uni), Gwynedd Archives, and other bodies”. The more the merrier!
There was now a gap until 26 November 2017, and an article headlined, “Take a look at stunning £16m transformation of historic mansion into five star hotel”, which was a bit naughty, because Paul and Rowena Williams have not spent anything approaching £16m at Glynllifon. There was no explanation for how the cost of renovating Plas Glynllifon had increased from £5.5m-£6.5m in May to £16m in November. Brexit, I suppose.
There was yet another video, this one without the Gruesome Twosome but with weird musical accompaniment. Then there were photos, of, er, scaffolding; while inside the building, we saw a bath, an organ, statues and a four-poster bed. This article, like previous ones, drew a number of positive comments, including one from ‘MarkoMarko’, who I suspect may not be local, and may even have been an employee of the Williams gang.
The final plug report of the year was on 4 December 2017. Now the focus switched to the Seiont Manor Hotel , lined up for a £5m expansion. This would involve, ” . . . extending the restaurant with the provision of a new lake view terrace, expansion of the existing leisure facilities to improve the changing and spa facilities and add treatment rooms, a purpose built lake side function suite with bedrooms above and luxury lodges in the grounds”.
The first article in the new year appeared on 7 February 2018 and the focus switched again, this time to a snowy Plas Brereton and Plas Tŷ Coch, which we were told Paul and Rowena Williams were buying. The obligatory video introduced ageing juvenile lead Rikki Reynolds, general manager of the Seiont Manor Hotel.
This new project included, “a 100 bedroom hotel with a pool, spa, restaurants and bars”. There was to be a seafood restaurant, and holiday cottages, with the Daily Post adding, “They (Paul and Rowena Williams) said the residential parts of the project will help with funding for other parts of this 240 job scheme and the ongoing restoration at Glynllifon and expansion of Seiont Manor in Llanrug, which they also own.”
Two hundred and forty jobs! This is bullshit piled so high that it must have blocked out the sun. But by this stage if Paul Williams had said he was Jesus Christ come to give us all another chance the Daily Post would have reported it without question . . . and of course with a video.
Just three days later, on 10 February 2018, the Daily Post returned to Plas Brereton and Plas Tŷ Coch, for which, we were told, “project proposals have come and gone”; but things were to be different this time with Paul and Rowena Williams and the boy wonder. Maybe, but the video was the same one we’d seen three days earlier. We also heard of a new player in “Developer Plas Glynllifon Group”, of which no one has seen hide nor hair since.
On 27 April 2018 a fire was reported at Plas Tŷ Coch. ‘Disgraceful’ behaviour according to Paul Williams (a man who knows a thing or two about disgraceful behaviour). The Daily Post took the opportunity to remind us that Plas Tŷ Coch would be restored (sic) into luxury period apartments with low density housing in the grounds of the mansion and the restoration of walled and formal gardens.
I’m losing track now of how many apartments, houses, lodges, are involved with the Williams’ properties. Add them to the hotels, restaurants, pools, spas, bars and God knows what else and it’s getting bloody crowded!
Did it never occur to anyone that this bloke might be a sinister kind of Walter Mitty?
On to 11 May 2018 when we were told that Paul and Rowena Williams intended to part-fund their ambitions in the north through the sale of those properties they owned in Powys and over the border. This was the £10m ‘sale’ to convicted fraudster Keith Partridge, which was about as convincing as a ‘Welsh Labour’ Party manifesto.
The cost of renovating Plas Glynllifon was now £20m, up from £5.5m to £6.5m a year earlier. Inflation on this scale is no problem if you’re fluent in bollocks, pluck figures out of thin air, and are trying to wangle grants . . .
We only had to wait one day, to 12 May 2018, for the next intriguing episode headed, “Take a look inside stunning Plas Glynllifon as restoration continues”. And we were treated to yet another video and more photos of scaffolding and further examples of Victorian interiors at their worst.
Giving us an effect that is quite overwrought and claustrophobic. I can only assume that this bedroom would be the Edgar Allan Poe Suite. Who’s that in the mirror!
The Daily Post went for its hat-trick with three consecutive days’ coverage on 13 May 2018, with the emphasis now shifting to the parkland and pleasure gardens around Plas Glynllifon. For the headline told us “Mansion owners in ‘advanced talks’ to take ownership of Parc Glynllifon country park”.
If this carried on it was only a matter of time before Paul Williams approached Cyngor Gwynedd with an offer they couldn’t refuse to buy the whole bloody county.
The long-awaited news of open days at Plas Glynllifon was brought to us on 6 June 2018. There was yet another video, this one confirming that a number of deliveries had been received from the local garden centre, with photos of the happy couple, scaffolding, and the Edgar Allan Poe Suite.
The cobwebs were blown away when, on 9 June 2018, we were back to the bracing air of Plas Brereton on the Menai Strait, and among fresh proposals for the site was a fishing village! So if we add that to the apartments, houses, lodges and hotels, how much accommodation does that give us? How much extra accommodation does the Caernarfon area need?
We made another slight detour on 16 June 2018 as Paul Williams’ house-trained “expert in land and heritage conservation”, dragged up specially from Cornwall, tut-tutted about the state of Parc Glynllifon and suggested that it was in such a mess it should be handed over to Paul Williams at a knock-down price.
Of the accompanying photos two were of scaffolding. (They can grow on you!)
Maybe my blog was being read at the Daily Post, for the uncritical plugs stopped and the first cloud appeared in the Williams firmament with the report of 11 July 2018headlined, “Welsh Government considering whether grant funding to mansion developers can be recouped after hotels close”, a reference to the closure of the Radnorshire Arms Hotel In Presteigne and the Knighton Hotel in the town of that name.
For all I know there might have been other articles that I’ve missed, but the 18 I’ve listed here tell an alarming tale of a gang of shysters given free access to an important source of local news. For they were allowed to say anything they wanted with nary an awkward question, let alone any journalistic digging to find out who they really were.
But as the local ‘paper the Daily Post is more guilty than others of not doing its homework on these crooks. Indeed, the other news outlets may have been attracted to Glynllifon by the endless plugs they saw in the Daily Post. Seeing as they got it so wrong with Paul and Rowena Williams we have to ask if the Daily Post will identify the next shysters arriving on its patch, or will it be more free and uncritical publicity.
Because I can predict with certainty that the easy ride Paul and Rowena Williams received from the local media, the council and others, will encourage other crooks to chance their arm in Gwynedd.
Of course, I tried to post comments to the endless ‘Aren’t they wonderful!’ stories about Paul and Rowena Williams; trying to warn people, but I’m blocked from the Daily Post and WalesOnline websites.
The question for newspapers and other media outlets before repeating press releases, or running encomiums, must always be – ‘What do we really know about these people?’ And if the answer is ‘Nothing’, or ‘Very little’, then start digging!
THE FAT LADY IS WAITING IN THE WINGS
In the previous episode I told you that Leisure & Development Ltd was in the hands of receivers and the establishments involved locked, with CCTV installed. Since then I’ve heard that Paul Williams was still getting access to some of the buildings, for example, to the Knighton Hotel, either from the flat or ground floor showroom he still owns.
The latest information I have says that an offer has been made for the Radnorshire Arms by some local nobs who hope to start refurbishment work early next year. There is also interest in the Knighton Hotel and the properties in England and Cornwall, all of which might be offered for sale very soon.
In Gwynedd, things are also moving to a conclusion. For example, in the extracts you’ve just read from the Daily Post you’ll see that Plas Brereton and Plas Tŷ Coch crop up quite regularly, with ludicrous plans for fishing villages and God knows what else – but Paul and Rowena Williams never owned these properties!
They seem to have put down a deposit but never got around to paying off the balance. The deadline to complete the sale passed on Tuesday 18 September, and so, on the reasonable assumption that the balance was not paid, Paul and Rowena Williams are now left with Plas Glynllifon and the Seiont Manor Hotel, the latter run for them by drug-dependent Rikki Reynolds.
The Daily Post couldn’t forget old habits and tried to put a positive spin on the story, as if the deal would be finalised . . . as if non-completion was a mere oversight . . . nothing to do with the money having dried up . . . the other properties being in the hands of liquidators . . . everything falling apart . . .
STOP PRESS: But, finally, on Wednesday 19 September the Daily Post was forced to submit to reality and admit that the deal had fallen through.
I now visualise Paul Williams holed up in Plas Glynllifon, something like Jean Gabin in Le Jour se Lève, chain-smoking Gauloises and ready to shoot it out with the flics receivers. (God! I must lay off the Malbec!)
But enough of 1930s French movies and the Daily Post, what about other individuals and agencies we’ve encountered in this saga, how do their roles stand up to scrutiny?
UPDATE 21.09.2018:Today the Daily Post reported that Dyfed Powys Police had met with Powys County Council trading standards officers last week to discuss the now closed Powys hotels owned by Paul and Rowena Williams.
Paul Williams was quoted as saying, “We are unaware of any meeting allegedly held between the local authority and the police in Powys. However, we are pleased to hear that they are looking into matters as this will without doubt vindicate Rowena and I.”
The Daily Post‘s reporting was again abysmal. Just two days ago, Owen Hughes, the DP’s Business Correspondent – who has written all the puffs for Paul and Rowena Williams – told us that the deal to buy Plas Brereton and Plas Tŷ Coch had fallen through, but today he wants us to believe that they’ve “agreed the purchase” of these properties.
Can’t he remember what he’s written . . . or did somebody else write it?
Not only that, but he sticks to the Williams story about these Powys properties having been sold to convicted fraudster Keith Partridge, when everyone else knows this was just a ploy allowing them to slip away and lay the blame on somebody else.
Plas Glynllifon is a Grade 1 listed building. The Radnorshire Arms in Presteigne and the Knighton Hotel are both Grade II listed buildings. (Plas Brereton and Plas Tŷ Coch are also listed.) Which means that they come under the watchful eye of Cadw, or English Heritage (West) as it is more honestly known.
Cadw/EH(W) awards grants to those owning listed properties, and so, given Paul and Rowena Williams’ talent for sniffing out easy money, it would be reasonable to assume that they applied to Cadw/EH(W) for funding. And this is what I’m told happened. I’m further told that grant funding was given.
More specifically, large amounts were given to the Powys properties, enough for Williams to claim that grants had paid for the Knighton Hotel. While in Gwynedd, it’s reported that there was a dispute between Paul and Rowena Williams and Cadw/EH(W) over a grant given to Plas Glynllifon which appeared to have been diverted to the Seiont Manor Hotel.
In the hope of getting the facts I submitted a FoI request to Cadw/EH(W), but if the reply I received is to be believed then the Williams gang haven’t received a penny. Read it for yourself.
Which means that either my informants are mistaken, or else – and I hate to even consider this possibility! – Cadw/EH(W) is telling old Jac porkies!
With Paul and Rowena Williams’ empire now reduced to Plas Glynllifon and Seiont Manor it’s worth asking what roles have been played by the local council and Grŵp Llandrillo Menai which runs the adjoining Glynllifon Agricultural College.
Cyngor Gwynedd has remained tight-lipped, saying only that Plas Glynllifon is privately owned and has nothing to do with the council. Which I suppose is fair enough up to a point, but the council must have concerns when such a prominent local building is constantly changing hands between dreamers and crooks.
So how far did these talks progress? Were they concluded with an agreement to hand over land to Paul and Rowena Williams? In light of recent developments, how difficult would it be for Cyngor Gwynedd and Grŵp Llandrillo Menai to issue a statement assuring us that no deal was done? I suggest they owe it to us.
A name that has cropped up throughout this case is that of property company Lambert Smith Hampton, and in particular Dudley James Cross, who often seemed to act as a personal advisor to Paul and Rowena Williams, or perhaps even a partner, for at one time he was a director of Leisure & Development Ltd, the company that was ‘sold’ on 1 February to Keith Partridge, but then went tits up.
You’ll notice that on his Linkedin profile Cross is Regional Head of LSH based in Northampton, but when he was director of Leisure & Development Ltd he was apparently resident in Wales, with his address given as Plas Glynllifon.
So what sort of a company is Lambert Smith Hampton that it gets involved with crooks like Williams and Partridge? Where is Cross now? Is his role in all this being investigated?
A LAND READY FOR THE TAKING
The deeper I dig and the more I learn about how modern Wales is run the more I realise how easy it is for crooks like Paul Williams to come waltzing in demanding this that and t’other. And demand that we pay for it!
Just a few miles away, at Nebo, a gang set up in a farm, and a benefit claimant threw up a seven-bedroom mansion! The police eventually raided the place. I understand this is another case from which Gwynedd’s planning department does not emerge with any credit.
All this is happening in Gwynedd, which many outside the area think of as some impregnable fortress of Welshness. The truth is its walls have been breached, and from the inside.
And yet, perversely, when I see how easy it is for people who are obviously greedy and corrupt, but none too bright, to get away with all this, then in a curious way it gives me hope.
For I see that the political machinery is old and broken, with few taking any interest in its running; the social structures that once seemed so permanent are in a state of flux; people are discontented and looking for something new; while the traditional media is discredited and dying before our eyes.
We are at a stage in the history of Wales where enough determined people, with the right message, can generate enough enthusiasm and public support to direct the political and social agenda.