Well I promised I’d be back, and when you’ve got a gift that keeps on giving . . .
As the title suggests, this is the sixth episode in a saga that I’m more convinced than ever will end in tears for the central characters. And they will be the authors of their own downfall.
If you’ve stumbled on this site looking for Viagra, or you wanted to lay a bet on Cardiff City winning the Premier League (well, laff!!), why not stay tuned, but first catch up with previous instalments, Weep for Wales, Weep for Wales 2, Weep for Wales 3, Weep for Wales 4, Weep for Wales 5.
LET’S GET UP TO DATE . . .
In what I assume was an attempt at ‘balance’ the Mid Wales Journal followed up its report of 6 July on hotels being abandoned by Paul and Rowena Williams and/or Keith Partridge with the report below a week later.
In this we read Keith Partridge blame the neglect of the Radnorshire Arms Hotel and the Knighton Hotel on “foul and abusive notices” being found around these properties. He was also outraged by social media posts and web sites. (Some people, eh!)
These assaults on Partridge’s honesty, and his motives, have caused him and his cohorts, to “rethink our strategy”, with the outcome of the rethink to be given by the end of August.
What a load of bollocks! He shut the Radnorshire Arms Hotel and the Knighton Hotel telling staff these hotels would be closed for a few months for refurbishment and re-branding. When it was seen that nothing was being done people started asking questions about Partridge, and a can of worms was opened.
The truth has now emerged about him, the accountant Duggan, and Paul and Rowena Williams. But Partridge is using the suspicion and hostility he and the rest of the gang have generated as justification for doing nothing.
My gut feeling is that it was never in the plan to re-open these hotels. But with so much evidence about the gang now in the public domain, and with politicians, media and many others asking questions, their plan has been rumbled, and they’re not sure which way to jump.
THE MAN HIMSELF
Companies House tells us that Paul Steven Williams was born 23.02.1969.
His Linkedin profile tells us that before becoming a hotelier and property tycoon he worked for Royal Mail for eleven years as ‘National Facilities Manager’. We are told that his, ” . . . responsibility covered the management, acquisition and refurbishment of the Royal Mails (sic) £5 billion portfolio of UK properties”.
The manner in which the job is described suggests that this is where he learnt about property, how to acquire, exploit and dispose of property, plus all manner of short-cuts and dodges. Doing this job he must have made many useful contacts in the property world.
If you go up towards the top of the Linkedin page you’ll see ‘Paul Williams’ Posts’, ten in all. I was particularly taken by one dated October 2, 2015 and introduced as “Our Next Hotel Project …………..is….” and it turns out to be the Fronoleu Country Hotel near Dolgellau. In case it disappears from the internet, you can read it here.
Upon reading that I thought to myself,‘Well, if this project was already under way in early October 2015 then it must surely be finished by now. So I shall hire me a charabanc and take a party of merry-makers up there!’
But alas, when we got there, this is what we found! It was terrible! The shrieks of the women, the crying of the children, the men cursing – ‘There was football on the telly, you bastard!’
What went wrong? We were told this project was under way in 2015, Paul Williams even showed us the plans on his Linkedin post. Surely he wasn’t lying?
And yet, I can’t find any record of a planning application ever being submitted for this property, and I searched both the Gwynedd council and the National Park websites. To judge by what I saw when I visited, the place was cleaned out some time ago, and that’s all that’s been done. It was bought, gutted, and left to rot.
The only sign of recent human intervention was the cut grass to the left of the hotel, probably cut by whoever lives in the house just out of picture in the same direction. Particularly poignant, I thought, was the state of the three flags, resembling standards on some long forgotten field of combat.
But how did Paul and Rowena Williams come into possession of Fronoleu?
Given the dates we already have in 2015 I suspect it was bought at this auction. The information given is interesting, and amusing. It tells potential buyers, “The more extensive amenities of Caernarfon and Bangor are accessible to the north respectively“ without saying that Caernarfon is over 40 miles away, Bangor further, and that Aberystwyth and Newtown are both nearer.
Obviously penned by someone who knows sod all about the area. Another give-away was calling Tabor a village, which is like describing Dolgellau as a metropolis. And while the former county town of Merioneth is indeed 1½ miles away – if you’ve got black, shiny feathers – it can only be reached from Fronoleu by risking the single-track unlisted road that runs to and from this isolated property.
(Our charabanc scared the shit out of a cyclist who reacted in the manner I suspect greets alien landings. I hope he wasn’t injured diving through that hedge.)
The ‘Joint Auctioneer’ is the Manchester office of Christie & Co. (Just can’t get away from Manchester, can we?) The sale was handled by Martin Davis, who has since moved on to Bilfinger GVA.
I’m sure Fronoleu serves some purpose lying empty and losing money but don’t be surprised if it catches afire or goes to auction again soon.
UPDATE: I hear from a council source that towards the end of last year council tax debts on Fronoleu had reached such a level that Cyngor Gwynedd threatened to go into Seiont Manor and seize ‘goods to the value’. This was averted only when £10,000 was paid over the phone by card.
GOOD WITH FIGURES
I’ve just mentioned John Duggan, who serves as the gang’s accountant, and works out of a shed in the village of Leintwardine in north Herefordshire.
Leisure and Development Ltd, the company we are asked to believe was sold for £10m to another crook, Keith Partridge, in February, was using Duggan’s shed as the company’s registered office address, but earlier this month the address was changed to the Knighton Hotel.
Can’t you just imagine Keith Partridge sitting down one morning to his kedgeree, switching on his tablet to read Jac o’ the North and exclaiming in a voice resonant of both shock and horror – ‘Well, bless my soul, John Duggan is a crook! Who’d have thought it . . . lovely man . . . such impressive offices at Unit 3 . . . We’ll have to take our business elsewhere . . . ‘
How they’ve been allowed to get away with it I do not know. Let’s stick with Leisure & Development Ltd for a minute. This company was formed 19 January 2015; then, in July 2015, no less than 7 charges were registered, these being loans from the National Westminster Bank. Yet the accounts submitted for that period, up to 31 January 2016 – by Debra Oswald, Paul Williams’ sister – are for a dormant company!
Clearly Leisure & Development Ltd was not a dormant company. And I guarantee that no responsible accountant or lawyer would have signed off that statement, so Paul Williams’ sister had to do it.
Though in fairness, the accounts for 31 January 2017 (or the ‘Unaudited Financial Statement’) were produced by an accountant – John Duggan, of J D Accountancy, Leintwardine.
An unlikely locale in which to find Paul and Rowena Williams, who specialise in country hotels, which then makes the former Badminton Club an even more unlikely purchase. But buy it they did and may have renamed it the Beaufort Sports and Social Club.
I’m not sure when they bought it, or whether it was through an auction – maybe someone in the area can help?
What I can say is that it was sold in December 2017 for a stated price of just £60,000.
Which then leaves the big questions:
- Did Paul and Rowena Williams initially buy the Badminton Club in their own name(s)?
- If not, when and from whom did Rural Retreats & Leisure acquire the property?
- Did Rural Retreats & Leisure Ltd pay a strangely high price for the property?
- Was the property then sold at a loss?
Now we turn to the jewel in the crown, the reason given for allegedly selling the other properties to Keith Partridge.
The latest figure given for the Glynllifon project is £20m. Even if we accept that Paul and Rowena Williams received £10m for their other properties from Partridge (which raises the question of where he got the money), that still leaves a shortfall of £10m.
Fortunately, this money-pit is, according to The Caterer, being funded by the other Gwynedd properties.
We’ve already seen that Fronoleu isn’t making any contribution, and the only establishment that is open for business is the Seiont Manor Hotel. Run by Rikki Reynolds who, from the information I’ve received, seems either disinterested or out of his depth.
On top of which, Plas Brereton and Plas Tŷ Coch are themselves going to cost millions to renovate. As if that wasn’t enough of a financial burden, Paul Williams has told people he wants to ‘buy’ four more hotels in the area!
The figures don’t add up because Plas Glynllifon was taken on in order to raise more money. When everything eventually goes mammaries heavenwards the gang will drive off in brand-new Range Rovers, every glove compartment and other storage area stuffed with readies.
In the meantime, in the hope of persuading people that renovation is under way, Plas Glynllifon and Seiont Manor serve as repositories for fixtures and fittings looted from elsewhere.
And who’s to say the partnership will even hold? Because I hear of rows between Paul and Rowena Williams, with her often sleeping on an inflatable bed.
Face it, these people are crooks. Before long, as the NatWest Bank, HMRC and the police close in Gwynedd will be back to square one with a massive derelict mansion and a few smaller properties for which no uses can be found and no honest buyers.
UPDATE: Crooks they may be, but I’m sure they don’t have people whacked, which is a possibility that went through my mind when I was told about a ‘director’ who was there at Seiont Manor one day and was gone the next, never to be seen again.
The man I’m talking about is Mark McNicol, who describes himself on his Linkedin profile as ‘Operations Director – Rural Retreats & Leisure’, a job he’s held since April 2016. Which is a bit confusing, for Rural Retreats & Leisure Ltd changed its name to Polvellan Manor Ltd in March 2015. (Surely they’d have told him?)
Otherwise, he must mean Rural Retreats & Leisure UK Ltd. This, you’ll remember, is the company the gang tried to strike off, so not much future there.
For some reason I can no longer reach his Linkedin profile, but fortunately I grabbed it earlier.
Having mentioned HMRC I suppose I’d better explain why. It’s because Team Williams has a long-standing policy of paying in cash. Staff are paid in cash, suppliers are paid in cash, just about any deal that can be done in cash will be done in cash.
Inevitably, this means imaginative accounting – which is where Duggan of Cell Block B comes in – but documents still need to be produced. As I mentioned in the previous post, staff at Seiont Manor are given pay slips saying one thing (with no deductions for PAYE or NI), while the correct amount is paid by cheque.
I have now been sent some documents by former employees. This first one shows no tax paid while working at Seiont Manor. This individual is now paying extra tax to make up for the non-payment that is the responsibility of Rural Retreats & Leisure UK Ltd. (A company whose accounts are done by John Duggan.)
In another case, the salary was understated on the P60. In this example we are asked to believe that this person – earning £30,000 a year – was paid just £2,500 between November and April.
I have other documents all pointing in the same direction. Documents I will be happy to make available to HMRC. Those who’ve supplied me with the documents are ready to fully explain how this illegality is perpetrated. And I’m sure they have much more to tell.
This gang is always cutting corners, always lying, always cheating somebody. That’s because they are liars and crooks. There’s a story emerging of the deal Paul Williams struck with a certain drinks company. Of course he’s reneged on that deal, and the thug who runs the Waves Bar for him/Partridge in Cornwall has threatened a representative of the company with violence if he dares ask again for what’s owed.
For as we learnt in Weep for Wales 5, the Waves Bar in Seaton, Cornwall, is run by Stuart Paul Cooper, another crook done for fraud. But Cooper also has a taste for violence, and regularly threatens to burn down people’s homes – with them inside.
That’s three convicted fraudsters – that we know of – working for or with Paul and Rowena Williams: Keith Partridge, who’s supposed to have bought the properties outside Gwynedd, and has known Paul Williams for years. John Duggan, their accountant, who fleeced an old lady out of £700,000. And ‘Burn-’em-alive’ Cooper down in Cornwall.
We are judged by the company we keep, and when you keep company like that . . .
NATWEST AND TOGETHER
Finally, one thing that’s been puzzling me is why any bank or finance company would lend money to these crooks. I suppose the easy answer would be that they’ve got collateral in the form of hotels and the fixtures and fittings they contain. But what if the value of those hotels and other property is greatly inflated?
Seeing as NatWest stopped lending to the companies run by Paul and Rowena Williams early in 2016, I guess warning lights flashed and somebody said – ‘Enough!’. A theory strengthened by news that NatWest in February 2017 was trying to ‘restructure’ the loans. Here’s an example of what I’m talking about.
The document you’ve just read relates to Rural Retreats & Leisure UK Ltd. It’s dated 2 February 2017. On the Companies House website, a day later, the registered office address was changed from Unit 3 in Leintwardine (John Duggan) to Plas Glynllifon. Had NatWest rumbled John Duggan?
Whatever the answer – and as I just mentioned in relation to Mark McNicol – in May this year there was an attempt by the owners to strike off the company, and with it of course the debt to the National Westminster Bank. The procedure was halted by an objection from a public-spirited citizen.
All of which tells me that NatWest is innocent of any shenanigans. It is a victim in this affair. But what of Together Commercial Finance Ltd, the equivalent of a pay day loan company that replaced NatWest? The more I think about the relationship between the gang and Together Commercial Finance Ltd the more I see a partnership. If so, who’s taking the hit?
While you ponder this and more you might care to peruse a sheet I’ve put together that lists the dealings of the Williams-Partridge gang in a timeline determined by the dates of the many charges against their companies interspersed with noteworthy events.
Stay alert out there and don’t swap your cow for any magic beans. You listening!
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