Man jailed for defrauding EU and Welsh Government out of £4.7m

10 May 2019, 18:21

Anthony Smith

A businessman has been jailed for defrauding the European Union and the Welsh Government out of £4.7m by misusing cash meant to help process fish feed.

Anthony Smith, 72, promised to create up to 120 jobs with taxpayers' money but only employed 11 people after saying he would make Wales a world leader in the aquaculture industry.

Cardiff Crown Court previously heard the businessman "robbed the local community out of investment" by claiming grants for his three firms Dragon Research, Dragon Feeds and Dragon Baits.

The grant was approved in 2006 to help develop a plant to process ragworm for bait and ponds in which to rear them in Port Talbot and Pendine, Carmarthenshire.

But Smith failed to carry out his obligations and used the money incorrectly, including purchasing machinery that was not part of his original application.

A forensic review of his financial accounts showed he had deliberately structured the business in order to hide the flow of illegitimate funds.

Smith's previous business ventures included breeding worms for anglers which won environmental awards, and he was reportedly praised by the Prince of Wales, with the worms also used as feed for trout served by some of Britain's most high-profile chefs including Gordon Ramsay at Claridge's.

On Friday, Smith, from Port Talbot, was sentenced to three years and nine months at Cardiff Crown Court after previously pleaded guilty to three counts of fraudulent trading.

He was also ordered to pay £75,000 in compensation to the Welsh Government.

Colin Mair, 68, who ran one firm with Smith, was sentenced to 21 months, suspended to 18 month and told to pay £15,000 towards prosecution costs after admitting one count of fraudulent trading.

Keith Peters, 72, a retired chartered accountant, was jailed for 15 months after admitting two counts of false accounting.

Janet Potter, for the CPS, said: "Anthony Smith defrauded the taxpayer of millions of pounds by wildly overstating how much money had been spent, and lied about the purchase of equipment.

"He did this all under the guise of being environmentally-friendly and boosting the local economy.

"He promised to make Wales a world leader in the aquaculture industry, but instead he abused the system and robbed the local community of investment."

Detective Chief Inspector Nick Bellamy of South Wales Police Economic Crime Unit said: "Today's sentencing marks the end of an eight year investigation by South Wales Police into the fraudulent activities of a number of grant-funded companies.

"The overwhelming amount of evidence gathered during this painstaking investigation has resulted in Anthony Smith, Colin Mair and Keith Peters being sentenced for their role in a fraud worth more than £5 million to the public purse."