Wednesday, 8 December 2021

Old friends - Mark James' new venture...

Back in July 2020 I wrote a post about an interesting connection between former Council CEO Mark James, his 'management' of Century Wharf, Cardiff and his old friend from Llangennech, Nigel Lovering. More specifically the fact that invoices from Lovering's telecoms company, ETS Ltd happened to appear in Century Wharf's accounts.

The post is worth a read for the extensive background between the two men. Alarm bells first rang over ten years ago when James quietly arranged for the council to buy land at the old MOD site in Llangennech and immediately sold it to Lovering and business partner David Pickering, avoiding the impending auction where the land had been valued at a much higher price. 

Councillors were told that the council were at no risk over the deal as the (then unnamed) individuals were "known to officers". You bet they were.

If that wasn't dodgy enough, a £281k council grant was arranged by James to further develop the site.

Moving forward a few years and the path became paved with City Deal gold. James, and Wendy Walters had several cosy meetings in the Llangennech HQ immediately prior to welcoming another of Lovering's companies, Hydro Industries, to Marc Clement and the 'opportunities' of the Swansea Bay City Deal.

By then or course we now know that James and Clement were knee deep in their fraudulent deals with Dickmann and co and the Wellness Village scandal.

Both Lovering, and James, are directors of several companies, they've chopped and changed over the years, rather like Marc Clement. My post 'Tangled webs' from November 2020 attempts to explain the movements of the disgraced key players from the City Deal scandal.
It can be a very small world....

James, in something of a complete take-over of Century Wharf is not only Chair of the Right To Manage company (RTM) but also a director of CW Estates Ltd set up to manage the site. Mr James has never been concerned about conflicts of interest, nor declaring them when employed by the council.

One of Lovering's companies, Lancehawk Ltd (which sounds like it makes missiles or something but is listed on companies house as yet another telecom firm) has sprouted another company, Lancehawk EOT Trustee Ltd and the two directors are none other than Mark James and his old friend Mr Lovering.

Now Caebrwyn's understanding of such business arrangements are sketchy to say the least but google tells me that an EOT is an Employee Ownership Trust and is non-trading. This is an arrangement whereby shares from a company, in this case Lancehawk Ltd, can be sold to the EOT, and then held by them, and payments for Capital Gains Tax can be, legally, avoided.
Obviously great care needs to be taken when forming such companies.

The key word being 'trust'.

As the EOT then wields considerable control over the parent company it is essential that the trustees are, well, trustworthy. I have no opinion on the trustworthiness of Mr Lovering and no reason to doubt his integrity. 

I do, however, have reason to doubt Mr James' trustworthiness and honesty in anything, let alone as an actual trustee.

The first thing that springs to mind was the second of the two Wales Audit Office public interest reports from 2014 (the first being the illegal pocketing of legal fees by Mr James) which found that cash payments trousered by James in lieu of employer pension contributions were unlawful and deliberately designed to avoid paying tax.

So James has form in tax avoidance.

As this blog has detailed over the years, James also has form for dishonesty, lying to his employers, theft of public cash, tampering with official documents, failing to declare conflicting interests, helping out his friends with public cash and destroying anyone who opposed his various cosy deals.
His crowning glory was being made the Rotten Boroughs Shit of the Year 2016 by Private Eye.
 
It all began to fall apart when he tried the same nonsense with the bigger fish in the City Deal.

As I have said in previous posts, before his hurried 'retirement' in 2019 he had rigged the council tender for the Wellness Village, accepting the promise of bribes worth several million quid. His home was raided and he was later arrested. Despite the police filing sufficient evidence, the CPS discontinued the case as one of the key figures was deemed too unwell to testify.

So, business associates, and Century Wharf folk be warned, Mark James is a crook, and cannot be trusted with a piggy bank.