Ragworm feed boss jailed for conning Welsh goverment out of millions

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Anthony Smith has been jailed for under fours years for defrauding the EU and Welsh Government out of GBP 4.7 million by claiming grants to develop a fish feed alternative.

The venture was supposed to create up to 120 jobs but Anthony Smith created seven and used the cash for other purposes, Cardiff Crown Court heard, reports the BBC.

Smith, 72, from Port Talbot, pleaded guilty to three counts of fraudulent trading in March. He was sentenced to for three years and nine months.

Tony Smith, feeding saltwater rainbow trout at Dragon Feeds site in 2009 PHOTO Screenshot DragonFeeds Youtube Channel

“Sophisticated and complex” fraud
The prosecution – built up over an eight-year investigation – said Smith was the “driving force” in a “sophisticated and complex” fraud.

The court heard Smith consistently lied on his grant applications, falsifying information so he could run his businesses using huge sums of taxpayers’ money.

SalmonBusiness reported on the full extent of Smith’s con in April, after he pleaded guilty.

“It was almost entirely public funds that paid for the projects and was put at risk,” Shane Collery QC, prosecuting, said.

Smith had run several businesses specialising in breeding ragworms for use in the aquaculture industry. So with almost 20,000 miles of coastline, permission was granted to build a huge worm near farm Port Talbot, Wales. The Dragon Feeds plant was to comprise over 200 breeding ponds and dozens of jobs. Smith already had the expertise breeding worms for anglers, which had won him an environmental award.

Lies
However, Mr Collery said Smith consistently promised more than he could deliver and consistently lied about how much money his business needed. He used cash to splash out on expensive holidays to Bali and Hawaii as well as a Porsche and Lamborghini.

Janet Potter, deputy head of the Crown Prosecution Service’s specialist fraud division, said it was one of the largest cases her team had worked on in Wales. Despite fraudulently obtaining GBP 4.7 million in grants, the court heard Smith’s assets were limited to his share of the family home.

“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,” she said.

Smith was ordered to pay the Welsh Government the GBP 75,000 he had tied up in the property.

Two of Smith’s former employees were also sentenced after pleading guilty to separate charges.

Former accountant Keith Peters was jailed for 15 months. PHOTO: South Wales Police

Prison
Colin Mair, 68, who helped Smith run his Dragon Research firm, was given a 21-month prison sentence suspended for 18 months for one count of fraudulent trading. He was also ordered to pay GBP 15,000 in costs.

Keith Peters, 72, a former accountant for Smith, was given 15 months in prison after admitting two counts of false accounting.

Det Ch Insp Nick Bellamy of South Wales Police told the BBC that it marked the end of an eight-year investigation into the fraudulent activities of a number of grant-funded companies.