Fish feed conman admits guilt in multimillion pound fraud case

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1212

“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.”

Last Thursday, a man pleaded guilty to fraud after claiming up to GPB 4.7 million worth of European Union and Welsh Government grants, according to a statement from the Crown Prosecution Service.

Anthony Smith, 72, admitted three counts of fraudulent trading at Cardiff Crown Court.

The grants relate to the companies Dragon Research Ltd, Dragon Feeds Ltd and Dragon Baits Ltd and their development of various projects involving farming ragworms for rainbow trout farm operations, as well as for commercial bait.

Mr Smith’s product was initially praised after it was used to feed trout served by famed chefs Gordon Ramsay and Heston Blumenthal.

But his deception involved claiming large sums of money to develop a plant to process ragworm for bait and ponds in which to rear them. Instead, after being given the multimillion grants, Smith went on holidays to Bali and Hawaii and drove a Porsche and Lamborghini.

In 2006, he announced plans to build 270 ponds, creating 70 jobs. That part of the project alone was granted more than GBP 1m by the Welsh European Funding Office, part of the Welsh Government

However, Smith made false promises that prosperity would be brought to Port Talbot and Pendine in Carmarthenshire through the 120 new jobs. In reality, only seven positions were created.

In 2011, Dragon Feeds went into liquidation with debts of almost GBP 1.4m.

Smith dishonestly ran Dragon Research Ltd with Colin Mair, 68, who admitted one count of fraudulent trading. They were assisted by Keith Peters, 72, now a retired chartered accountant, who admitted two counts of false accounting.

Janet Potter, for the CPS, said: “Not only did Anthony Smith wildly overstate how much money had been spent, but he made up stories about projects which never existed.

“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.”

Sentencing will take place at Cardiff Crown Court next month.