Wales

Fish feed grants fraud boss Anthony Smith jailed

Anthony Smith Image copyright South Wales Police
Image caption Anthony Smith promised 120 jobs but only created 10

A businessman has been jailed after defrauding the EU and Welsh Government of £4.7m 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.

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

The prosecution said Smith was the "driving force" in a "sophisticated and complex" fraud, which involved lying about what his companies were spending and how much they needed for future projects.

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

Image caption Smith was responsible for the biggest fraud on the Welsh Government

"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.

Part of his venture had been aimed at creating a feed for fish farms, which could limit their impact on the oceans by using his specially-harvested worms instead of traditional fishmeal.

It was a proposition the court heard attracted the Welsh Government because of its potential to help the environment, along with bringing "significant employment to parts of the country that needed it".

He was praised by Prince Charles after visiting Clarence House and his products were used to feed trout served at restaurants run by Gordon Ramsay and Heston Blumenthal.

His ragworm product won awards and in 2008 he was invited to a private lunch at Windsor Castle with the Queen who told him the trout he served was "absolutely delicious".

However, Mr Collery said Smith consistently promised more than he could deliver and consistently lied about how much money his business needed.

Image caption Smith claimed huge ragworm farms could offer sustainable feed to the seafood industry

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 £4.7m in grants, the court heard Smith's assets were limited to his share of the family home.

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

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

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 £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 said it marked the end of an eight-year investigation into the fraudulent activities of a number of grant-funded companies.

Image copyright South Wales Police
Image caption Keith Peters was jailed for 15 months

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