Thursday 4 March 2021

Mark James - off the hook again?...Updated with revised statement from the police, and one from Swansea University

Update 9th March

Statement issued today from Swansea University on the internal investigation and police inquiry. 

Here's an extract, with my emphasis. And as we know, the "number of others" includes Mark James.

"Marc Clement was dismissed for having a serious conflict of interest which he failed to declare to the university. Along with a number of others, Marc Clement personally stood to receive significant amounts of money through a substantial equity share in the Sterling Health company, which would have part-owned the Wellness Village venture, as well as employment in the company. The share Marc Clement expected to receive was substantially larger than the university – his employer - was due to receive as a partner in the venture. Marc Clement admitted to expecting to receive this substantial equity share during the investigation. 

The university was satisfied at the time that the correct course of action was to dismiss Marc Clement for this significant undeclared financial interest, which he had admitted to, and is still entirely satisfied this was the correct course of action. Whilst the CPS may have decided it is not in the public interest to prosecute this case, the evidence compiled by the university will obviously come out during the employment tribunal, which will take place in the public domain, should the individuals still wish to proceed."

Link to press release here

Update 8th March

The police have issued a revised statement this afternoon;

There was evidence of potential criminal offending identified and secured against individuals and companies subject to this enquiry and this was submitted as part of the file of evidence to the CPS who subsequently made their decision that it was not in the public interest to proceed with any prosecutions"

That's a big change in tone, it's very significant, and as I said below, I believe the police had plenty of evidence. We know exactly who the 'individuals' are, and we know the 'companies' were Sterling Health and it's assorted sister outfits.

In light of the revised police statement the BBC have asked the CPS if their decision not to proceed was because of a lack of sufficient evidence or on different grounds.

Whatever happens now, it'll all come out, eventually.


The fraud and bribery investigation into the Wellness Village seems to be over. 
The CPS have reviewed the file submitted by Tarian, the organised crime squad, and have said that there was insufficient evidence of criminal conduct and concluded that it was not in the public interest to proceed with the case. A case, it has to be said, which would have taken several years. 

They found that the "correct procurement guidelines were followed and overseen by specialist law firms". 
More on one of those specialist law firms further on.

I have of course written numerous blogpost about all this, and followed every development since 2016. 

I have also come to a very different conclusion to the CPS. 

I also understand that the police did too.

For all the details, please take a look at some recent blog posts including Wellness Scandal - How did it happen?, Tangled webs, Wellness scandal - Swansea Uni sticking to its guns.

The investigation centred around the council’s tender for the Wellness Village development in Llanelli, which became a City Deal project. The suspects in the case were in line to gain millions from the deal.

You’ll recall that former CEO Mark James was particularly insistent that Kent based company Sterling Health were signed up to develop the £200m project. This was despite the company having no proven track record, £137k in debt and a previous development which required a £30m bail out. 

He was so keen he signed them up twice, once in their earlier incarnation as Kent Neurosciences.
By 2017 he was telling them what to put in their tender submission.

As the whole shady deal began to fall apart, Swansea University pulled out as partners, eventually sacking Professor Marc Clement and vice-chancellor Richard Davies, amongst others, for gross misconduct over their involvement in the Wellness Village. It was at the point when the Uni staff were suspended that James made his move to 'retire' from the council. 

Details and allegations began to emerge that Frank Dickmann, the Director of Sterling Health, had been offering jobs, homes and shares to various individuals.

As I said, Mr James was, inexplicably, very determined to appoint Mr Dickmann.

It also emerged, late in 2019, that James, Clement, Davies and Dickmann were planning to develop a private medical school in Kuwait. This arrangement was also referred to the police. James was a trustee, and never declared it to the council.

With the police investigation underway, Sterling now ditched, and the shit heading for the fan, Mark James brought in a law firm to ‘review’ the council’s (his) role in the Wellness tender, in other words, to provide himself with some sort of defence, paid for by the council, should things take a nasty turn. This is the law firm I mentioned earlier in this post.
To ensure he got the result he needed he brought in Acuity Law who, remarkably, just happened to be his very own personal solicitors. It was staggering that no one at the council dared to even try stopping him.

Meanwhile, the arrogant and dishonest manner in which Mark James was running the Swansea Bay City Deal was giving grave cause for concern, in fact, he nearly collapsed the whole £1.3bn deal. Two damning reports were published, Mark James’ role was 'deleted' (he’d hastily announced his retirement by then), Carmarthenshire Council was stripped of key roles and Linda Rees Jones was removed as City Deal Monitoring Officer.

James left the council in June 2019, pocketing his cash from his previous rap sheet of illegal legal costs and a pension tax avoidance scam, for which he’d also been investigated by the police in 2014. 

Then, like now, he got away with being caught with his hand in the till.

                                                                       Mark James

A few weeks later, in July 2019 the news broke that eight addresses had been raided by the police and computers seized. The addresses included the home of Mark James, former leader Meryl Gravell, and deleted data was seized from County Hall. An address in Kent was also raided.

A treasure trove of evidence was seized.

Early in 2020 eight suspects were interviewed by the police, including Mark James who was arrested, but not charged. 

Which, in this long sorry saga brings us up to today’s announcement by the CPS. 

As I have said, and exposed throughout this blog, Mark James is a thoroughly arrogant and dishonest individual and capable of anything to further his own interests, including criminal behaviour. 
The case might have been dropped, but he knows he's guilty, which is something.


Anonymous said...

Watching David Tennant and Michael Sheen in staged - one of the episodes was titled Cachu hwch - which sums up the situation - in English the polite translation is It's all gone wrong

Swansea uni will now fight a unfair dismissable case nor doubt with compensation

Mark James as you say is off the hook but luckily is now retired so will not make a comeback

The Llanelli project will go ahead as part of the city deal - but there after the pandemic the rationale of the city deal is hampered with the decline of cities with suburbs anbd market towns booming with people working from home

Closures of shops in Swansea and the one project of an areana is questionable now together with the furory of the ex EU funds now coming from the tory government to as we have seen in the past few days just to tory held areas - the vale of glamorgan is going to be awash with money

Anonymous said...

The test applied would have been whether there was enough evidence to satisfy the criminal evidential test and offered a realistic prospect of conviction. Sharp practice, lying to councillors, not giving information to partners in the City Deal when you know there's a problem, remote, evasive, and shady business relationships - even in combination - might not meet that test. Mark James lied to councillors and misled City Deal partners. His mismanagement and conduct are directly responsible for the delay in developing the Llanelli Wellness Ditch. His mismanagement and came within an ace of derailing the City Deal.
Whether or not the investigation showed criminal endeavour or not, there's enough already in the public domain to allow people to draw their own conclusions about the prickly little shyster.
No doubt Emlyn 'AirBnB' Dole will have visited Mark James and offered to kiss his ring.

caebrwyn said...

Anon 10:29
Swansea Uni have issued a detailed statement and have made it clear said that their internal disciplinary process is separate from the police investigation and the CPS decision has no bearing on the serious breaches of the Uni's policies and procedures which led to the suspensions/dismissals.
Tribunals, if they go ahead, could be interesting...

The Wellness Village, which had to be renamed Pentre Awel because of the scandal will rumble on, with a much shrunken project, which has yet to attract any private investment.

Anon 16:36
Spot on.
It seems that there was plenty of factual evidence. There were many factors at play which made a successful prosecution not so certain, which is what the CPS have to consider, particularly in lengthy complex fraud cases like this one.
Mark James must rather relieved that yet again he has evaded the law and got away with his criminal actions.

Anonymous said...

Swansea Uni statement also points to Tribunal being in public domain - they are clearly keen to get information out to public. Be interesting to see if those who protest their innocence are as keen for us to see the details...

Anonymous said...

I think those sacked etc. cannot wait to go to tribunal but I suspect like Pritti Patel it will be sorted by financial compenation

caebrwyn said...

Former professor Marc Clement is the first one to pipe up this morning. Reacting to the CPS decision he cited 'governance failures' at the Uni.

The Uni are sticking to its guns;
"Swansea University dismissed Marc Clement in July 2019, following a detailed and thorough independent investigation which found evidence that he had significant undeclared interests worth millions of pounds,"

Mr Clement, and indeed Mr James, have quite a history with controversial 'governance failures' of their own. Clement was behind the multi-million pound failed Technium project a few years back, and gained further notoriety, you may recall, as president of the University of Wales.

I needn't repeat Mr James' rap sheet again.

Of course, this is a separate matter. However, the only injustice as far as I can see is that the CPS have closed the book and no one's been charged.

Whether James will pass comment remains to be seen, perhaps he's too busy conning the good folk of Century Wharf.

Anonymous said...

Why would the Uni settle? By the statements it's clear the police passed a file to the CPS, who determined not in public interest to prosecute (the quote of no criminality very misleading). Anyone with knowledge of the prosecutor's code knows you only consider public interest if it first passes evidential test. Just because they weren't confident of criminal conviction doesn't mean there's not a treasure trove of evidence that will come out in tribunal. So let's see - no one protesting their innocence has mentioned looking forward to all the facts coming out in public during tribunal. They sound more like they're looking for a settlement. Agree with you Jackie, the injustice is the CPS walking away!

Ken Haylock said...

Here's a thought... if the police found evidence of criminality then that suggests that the Wellness Village was a corrupt project, & even if there is no crime, the council could & should be suing people in civil action to recover the public funds it spent on a corrupt project from the people who received them, & perhaps the people who authorised the project & were found by police to have broken the law. The civil standard of proof is 'on the balance of probabilities' rather than 'beyond reasonable doubt'. Can the Auditor General get on their case if they _fail_ to act to recover public money corruptly shelled out by them?

caebrwyn said...

@Ken Haylock
Yes it's certainly a thought. As details and evidence emerge, and emerge they will, Audit Wales may want to take a closer look. Several million quid of Welsh Government and Council funds, ie public money, were spent on the project prior to the collapse of the deal and the criminal investigation. Not least of all, the cash spent on Mark James' rigged tender.

Anon 09:37
Indeed, I've not heard Clement, or anyone else, 'looking forward to the facts coming out' to clear their names. And quite the opposite is likely to happen. Clement has admitted accepting the offer of a substantial amount of equity from Sterling Health, and we now know for certain he wasn't the only one. As I hope I've made clear in my post above.
You can dress it up whichever way you want but a bribe is a bribe.

As I have now seen the information published elsewhere, I will now disclose that one of the reasons that the CPS didn't continue with the prosecutions was because one of the key witnesses has been deemed too ill to stand trial, and this may have compromised the likelihood of a successful outcome.

Geoff Jones #merthyrcouncilcoverup said...

Keep on blogging.

Anonymous said...

Sion Barry has also done an updated article in the Western Mail. Seems Marc Clement now admitting taking equity and claiming he was putting it in trust for the people of Carmarthen!! Keeps changing his story, now some sort of Robin Hood defence! It would be funny if it wasn't such a clear injustice. This was PUBLIC money, there is a clear public interest..

caebrwyn said...

Anon 12:41
I agree, it is very much in the public interest, and Clement's comments are not just laughable, they are very unwise. The whole episode is sickening, and its not over yet.
It was bribery, pure and simple, with fraudulent, secret deals. Those involved were looking forward to big, personal jackpots.
Including Mark James.
He should be behind bars.