Thursday 16 June 2022

Mark James - caught red-handed - the email and the secret trust

The moment that former CEO of Carmarthenshire Council Mark James CBE has been dreading for over two years finally arrived yesterday. 

An email he had sent to Marc Clement, from his personal account, dated October 2018, surfaced in evidence at the Employment Tribunal brought by Marc Clement and Steven Poole against their dismissal from Swansea University for gross misconduct. (Update 29th June; good news, Clement and Poole lost their case)

Regular readers will be aware that all this centres around the £200m City Deal Wellness Village development, the Kuwait escapade, and allegations of bribery. 

In essence, Clement and James were offered bribes in the form of shares and jobs by Franz Dickmann of Sterling Health. Mark James then had to rig the tender for the Wellness Village to go make sure it went Dickmann's way.

Clement and James accepted. 

Mark James, as CEO of the Council, made absolutely certain that Sterling Health got the tender.

Mark James

The whole deal with Sterling was fraudulent.

The problem, of course, was not only to make sure Dickmann lived up to his promise, but where to  hide the million of pounds they would be pocketing from the bribe.

Mark James, in his email, planned to set up a secret trust (I understand it was to be offshore).

Here's the email, and it was this email which prompted the police investigation, and provides proof that James had accepted the bribe of shares and jobs and was setting up a secret trust to squirrel it away for himself. 

"Appreciate you are in China, but I thought I would share a few thoughts on this. Under the discretionary trust there is no absolute guarantee that you or I would actually ever get the shares, as the trustees have complete discretion who they give them to. So I suspect it would not provide an assurance for the future. This might be resolved by a separate document from the trustees Franz and Phyllis [of Sterling Health] creating in essence a secret trust in favour of us. Or a self declared trust, eg that they hold in favour of us and all we have to do is take up the positions of chair/CEO within a set period.
"This is what one might term a second best legal option. Alternatively we can go back to the solicitor for further advice on how to ensure legally that the intended shares do come to us as soon as we crystalise a particular requirement, eg taking up posts. I would appreciate your views before we respond to Franz."
(Mark James to Mark Clement Oct 2018, my underline)

Absolutely shocking.

I have been deliberately brief with the background details in this post. It is all on this blog, and various news reports over the past few years by some excellent journalists.

The police made clear that they had evidence of criminal behaviour. 
Mark James was always a suspect, his home (and County Hall) were raided, and, after failing to turn up for interview he was arrested and hauled in front of the tape recorder.

When Clement, Poole etc were suspended from the University, and James realised that this email was being held as evidence he had to arrange his 'retirement' from the council. He must have been sweating ever since, wondering when it would finally emerge. 

It finally has.

Due to the failing health of Franz Dickmann, the CPS decided not to continue with the case. This does not seem to me, and perhaps the police, to be a particularly good reason.

This was a bribery investigation (Operation Koel) for a reason. And there was proof.

And what about the Welsh Government, could they have pushed to take it further? I'm sure they could.

So what happens now? There is now cast iron factual proof that Mark James is a crook. I always said he was, and this proves it. 

I am paying him damages every month for suggesting he was dishonest and that he had a slush fund.

Not only does this prove dishonesty, and we know the slush fund was illegal, but is reveals the stark fact that he is a crook. Apart from the numerous scandals recounted on this blog, goodness knows what else he got up to during seventeen years at the Council. He is corrupt to the core.
I am certain that this is not the first time he accepted a bribe.

The least that must happen now, in light of these facts, is that I am relieved of paying Mark James his damages and costs. His legal charge and suspended order for sale should be revoked.

As a penniless resident I would welcome any help from a lawyer prepared to take up the challenge.

I hope his management colleagues at Century Wharf Cardiff are also aware of all this. I will let them know.
The best that can happen is that he is re-investigated and eventually put behind bars, where he belongs.


Anonymous said...

Sadly it is highly unlikely that criminal charges will now be brought, the information released in the tribunal was presumably available to the police and CPS.
Of course if a criminal conviction did occur the prospect of pension forfeiture potentially arises, that would be some outcome.

caebrwyn said...

Anon 10:39
You are probably right but as I mentioned above it wasn't through lack of evidence that the CPS didn't bring charges.
There should be an outcry. The Welsh Government should at least have called for a review of the CPS decision.
Convictions or not, I will now push to end the payments I make to Mark James and to cancel the legal charge and suspended order for sale.

Anonymous said...

If you stop making all payments what option does he have? He will be forced to return to court to enforce at which time you introduce all this new evidence. I suspect he will have a tough time explaining it and walk, leaving you free of incumbrance.

Anonymous said...

I wonder why Councils should just stick to bin collecting - public services etc all this shady investments with bankers / investors / offshore accounts etc is not a good look when so many people are struggling

The current so called management team put in place by james to protect his back and keep the skeltons buries should bear this in mind and by squeaky clean Ms Walters and Co

Because you never know what you don't know might surface

Anonymous said...

Will Darren be putting questions to Linda,Chris and Wendy now this has been revealed?

Anonymous said...

you always want to trust your local council but at the moment everything around this council smells of rotten rubbish

many have left that surrounded James - but there are some still in their posts and a good clearance is needed for s fresh start to reinstall trust

caebrwyn said...

Anon 22:48
Indeed. You would think the new leader would have a few questions...I certainly have.
There was not so much as an internal investigation, not a report, not a squeak.

I have requested information from the council for documents they hold relating to the police investigation etc.(which haven't already been hurriedly shredded) They've refused to release them so I have now appealed to the Information Commissioner. Could all take some time.

For those who are not familiar with the names, Darren Price is the new Plaid Cymru leader of the council, Linda Rees Jones is the Head of Law/Monitoring Officer, (responsible for ironing out James' various legal indiscretions) Chris Moore is in charge of the council cash (funding James' legal indiscretions) and Wendy Walters is the current chief executive. She was his loyal deputy and head of regeneration throughout the Wellness Village scandal.

All three were in heartily in favour of Mark James' slush fund and preserving it for future use.

Anons 14:10 and 07:15
Quite agree, good clearance long overdue.

My first priority though is to deal with Mark James and his legal charge. And to finally get some justice...

Anonymous said...

how does an individual who is crooked / a liar / basically dishonest / entilted get into power in the first place and then is able to surround hinself with a team of airheads and bring some much negativity to large numbers of people -

the above relates to James but also Boris what an holy mess

Anonymous said...

if there is evidence available that James tried to defraud the council through that procurement process why is Linda Rees Jones and the council not taking out a private summons on him on behalf of the tax payers of Carmarthenshire ?

the council is quick to go after those not paying council tax tax or staff deemed to have broken minor HR rules

Its unbelievable - but ironic if Linda Rees Jones was made responsible to go after James haha

Anonymous said...

James was always in the headlines - gone now thank God

But his repalcement is never seen or heard working in the shadows

Where is the leadership in Carmarthenshire Council - paid a lot of money for little reward

caebrwyn said...

Anon 05:16
James was always in the headlines for the wrong reasons. The problem was that he was an arrogant control freak, and a criminal to boot. The leadership of the council, or at least the one making all the noise, is supposed to be the elected leader not the chief executive, in theory anyway.
And maybe, given that his replacement was his shadow for so long she's realised it's best to keep quiet....

caebrwyn said...

The judgement was delivered yesterday and Clement and Poole lost their employment case against Swansea University - great news. The University have yet to decide whether to go after the pair for their legal costs - ouch if they do!
See my twitter timeline on the right hand side for links to Wales Online coverage, including an excellent opinion piece by the Business Editor Sion Barry.
As for Mark James he has been asked to explain the contents and context of that email. We wait to hear his response....

Schadenfreude said...

The simple truth about this whole tribunal is that evidence against Clement and his co-conspirators has been damning.

It is now crystal clear that the reasons given for his departure were in fact correct - that he used the university as a vehicle to line his own pockets and he was caught more by accident than intent. If Andrew Rhodes had not stumbled across this because of the greed of his predecessor, then it is likely that Clement, Mark James and others would have got away with this through their so-called secret trust.

There remain serious questions about the conduct of others in this debacle including his cronies who remain at Swansea University, politicians and councillors involved in the Swansea Bay Deal who turned a blind eye at every turn, senior people in the higher education sector who knew of his character and said nothing, civil servants in the Welsh Government who supported him with funding, and those staff at the BBC both past and present who have been quick to defend Clement at every opportunity but are now silent when the right verdict has been announced.

Let us not forget this is the man who destroyed the University of Wales and yet was welcomed back to Swansea University, who spent £100m of public money on a vanity project called the Techniums which failed abysmally, and who had previously left Swansea Institute after another academic scandal.

Who in their right mind would have put this man anywhere near hundreds of millions of pounds of public money?

Surely, there is enough evidence from this tribunal that is now in the public for the police to reopen this case and ensure that Clement, James and others receive the justice they deserve.

Anonymous said...

Swansea University had the courage to go after these individuals but Carmarthenshire Council did not go after James but let him retire with all his benefits - why

Anonymous said...

When the Swansea University sacking of Marc Clement came to light he asserted that he was `astounded` and would do `all it takes to clear his good name`. Now he is very publicly utterly disgraced and has brought shame to his family. His `good name` does not exist anymore - he was SACKED for GROSS misconduct. We have to also remember that Swansea Uni have confirmed that he is no longer entitled to use the prefix `Professor` in terms of his now-disgraced career at that institution.

caebrwyn said...

Well said @Schadenfreude

Anon 15:27 The council should hang their heads in shame that they let him go scot free, one wonders when, exactly, they knew what was going on, and was legal Linda covering for him? He was caught with his hand in the till, and not for the first time, far from it.

It is also remarkable that he got away with failing to declare his anything - Kuwait, Wellness, his property companies etc etc. It was this failure to declare interests which finally nailed Clement and the Swansea lot.
Mark James was, of course keeping it all very one was supposed to know.

Anon 10:08 Yes indeed, the Uni did confirm that Clement is not entitled to use 'professor'.
Neither should Mark James be using 'CBE', he should be relieved of it immediately. He's a total disgrace.

caebrwyn said...

The Employment Tribunal decision has been published here;

An interesting read. Paragraphs 121, 128 and 215 refer to James' email which is published in full earlier in the Decision, and are particularly damning of James. Confirming that he was in it up to his neck.

He even created a false trail of emails for the benefit of the council. These emails suggested that they 'keep their distance', as it were, to avoid anything improper, whilst all the time he was preparing to line his pockets. 'Self-serving', as Ms Gupta noted.

Ms Sen Gupta QC was the external investigator who carried out the University's original investigation which led to the suspensions. She was instructed by the police to withhold the email so as not to tip Mark James off. The 'First Claimant' is Clement;

Para 121
"One specific email which Ms Sen Gupta had originally intended to include
amongst the documentation, and to raise with the First Claimant, was the
email from Mr James to the First Claimant on 24 October 2018, referred to
at paragraph 99 above. That was on the direction of the police, who were
planning to arrest a number of individuals, including the First Claimant and
Mr James, and to seize documents from them. The police were concerned
that if the Claimants were made aware that the Respondent was in
possession of the particular email, then Mr James could be "tipped off" that
the police were planning on taking action against him"

Para 128
"She confirmed that her view was that the email strongly suggested that the
First Claimant regarded Mr Dickmann's proposals about future roles and
equity as genuine, as did Mr James, and they took them seriously. She
contrasted that email to the email exchange between the First Claimant and
Mr James on 10 July 2018 in which they appeared to be trying to distance
themselves from any arrangement which would be regarded as improper for
a Carmarthenshire or University employee to enter into, and which she
noted she considered to be "self-serving".

Para 215
"There was also evidence in the form of Mr James' email to the First
Claimant in October 2018, when Mr James indicated that he was concerned
that the trust provisions did not sufficiently protect him."

Anonymous said...

I think there is more concern about the current management of the council
Can they be trusted -
There is too much connection with james and his past actions - also it seems the swansea city deal has lost its way lately not much mention of what is happening now the areana is completed which has had mixed reviews and inside looks more like a windowless students union bar

Anonymous said...

Crook and shit of the year

Sian Caiach said...

I think the truth is that Mark James inspired fear in many of the county councillors, Most were very wary of stepping out of line and simply kept their heads down and gratefully took their salaries and expenses and were careful to avoid upsetting "the Boss"

The Council Leader and the Council executive board might have been elected by the people of Carmarthenshire but Mr James always seemed to be running the show.

The Council was often described as being "Officer led" , in other words it was perceived that unelected Council Staff ,rather than elected Councillors, were in charge.

It wasn't that simple, as many council officers themselves seemed fearful and were very careful to not upset Mr James and other senior staff. Who can blame them when their careers may depend on favourable references and word of mouth recommendations?

In my 9 years as a County councillor I was often treated with contempt, ranging from spiteful remarks from senior officers to being shunned by fellow councillors who did not wish to be associated with me in any way. presumably in case Mr James' found out.

Cllr Darren Price was originally seated right next to me in the chamber, but soon requested a move to a seat much further away. Courage was a rare commodity in Councillors in Mr James' administrations. I hope Councillor Darren Price , now the Leader of the whole council, is no longer feeling intimidated by the ghosts of the old regime.

When I was called to speak in the Council Chamber some of the Councillors would sigh loudly, groan and mutter disapprovingly, hoping that my contribution would be be negatively affected by their disapproval and perhaps they would have the reward of a smile of approval from Mr James?

I am a woman of considerable courage and have endured much more serious attacks than loud murmurs and groans from a bunch of puppets.

What the public call Corruption is not uncommon in other local public services. I lost my career as a hospital consultant by exposing other senior doctors who were essentially misappropriating NHS equipment, surgical implants etc and given free use of theatres for their private patients.
These men, already very well paid, were probably simply very greedy. They came to my attention when I found out they had spent my entire NHS theatre budget without even asking me ,Innocently . I felt I had been robbed of the means to do my job, Our medical director of the time, Dr Peter Thomas , explained that my colleagues needed extra funds and this was the way he was going to provide them, by giving them free use of NHS Equipment.

The management felt that they needed to bribe these skilled surgeons to keep them working in Llanelli. My view was that my NHS patients needed treatment and they were the victims, as I had been robbed of the means to give them NHS treatment,

I don't know if its something in the water pf Carmarthenshire but West Wales does seem to have something which attracts these greedy people who persuade the local organisations to perhaps give them far more money than they are entitled to. Rather than thanking me for exposing these thefts from the NHS the Local Health Board spent a lot of time trying to find any evidence of any personal mistakes or wrongdoing on my part - and refused to allow me to work, suspending me on full pay and refusing to a;;ow me to keep up my routine revalidation as a doctor.
I was eventually the victim of constructive dismissal and essentially unemployable. This is a general problem with whistle blowers , who often get blamed for embarrassing the dodgy organisations rather than congratulated for saving the money for the public purse.

Personally, I doubt whether Wales as a country will improve her general standards unless these corrupt" public" organisations are brought under proper scrutiny and better management and cleaned up! Otherwise we will repeat the same mistakes .

Anonymous said...

You only have to look at the centres of our towns to see that this council is rapidly failing downwards

When was the last time an announcement was made about new jobs in the county - the council tax is for ever increasing - never goes down -

you would feel better if yiou thought there were clever people in the council to take things forward but after comments by Sian - there seems no hope unless there is a clear out of management and a reset by the leader but same old same old will destroy this county and soon

Anonymous said...

All so so sadly, True Sian , its a disgrace

Anonymous said...

When council tax includes an average £200 towards the interest [only] on council borrowing its clear there is no financial acumen or even a proper business focus.

Time for a reset.

Keanjo said...

Dyfed seems to have been far superior to the three successor counties.Perhaps we would be far better off if it returned.

Anonymous said...

Council re-organisation blame the tories - John Redwood I think

Like Brexit the re-organisation benefits never were realised only benefited those higher ups get pension and redundancy payoffs

Council tax has rised ever since even though the number of councils went down

Never listen to a politician at any level - lies lies lies

Anonymous said...

"we are expected to believe that Johnson rose to power entirely unassisted or enabled, or that leaders fall from the sky, like meteorites, and then squat in office until a big enough crowd is assembled to heave them out. Most implausibly of all, we are expected to believe that those who enthusiastically defended Johnson when he lied, cheated and recklessly mismanaged a deadly pandemic are now to be trusted to lead us next."

in the above quote replace Johnson with James and pandemic with Carmarthenshire Council

Anonymous said...

caebrwyn said...

Anon 22:52
Thanks for the link. This was the cost (£200k+) spent on private consultants to process planning applications and enforcement due to the massive backlog.
The historic backlog, and total meltdown of the planning service was revealed in the damning Audit Wales report last year (see earlier posts).
This abject failure occurred under the guiding hand of Mark James and the Plaid administration. Presumably the former was too busy accepting bribes, rigging tenders and setting up secret trusts to care. The latter were too busy backing his every dodgy move.
Incidentally I also made a FOI request for the costs of these private consultants, in August 2021. They also spent an additional £20k on a private report in December 2019. They kept it entirely secret for a year and a half, despite making over fifty recommendations for improvement.
Of course everything is fine now. If you believe that you'll believe anything.