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Conman faces jail after claiming £4.7m of taxpayers money in fishing bait scam

Anthony Smith was paid millions of pounds in grants to develop alternative fish foods. Credit: PA

A conman is facing jail after he claimed up to £4.7million of European Union and Welsh Government grants by falsely saying he was developing a plant to breed worms for fishing bait.

Anthony Smith, 72, was paid millions of pounds in grants to develop alternative fish foods bring prosperity and jobs to Port Talbot and Pendine.

The funds were meant to be allocated towards developing a plant to breed ragworms for trout food. Smith made "false-promises" of creating 120 jobs, but it's been revealed that Smith had misused the funds and only seven jobs were created.

After being given the £4m grants, Smith went on holidays to Bali and Hawaii and drove a Porsche and Lamborghini.

The defendant, who ran Dragon Research Ltd with co-defendant Colin Mair, 68, appeared at Cardiff Crown Court on Thursday where he pleaded guilty to three counts of fraudulent trading, while Mair pleaded guilty to one count of fraudulent trading at an earlier hearing.

A third defendant, retired accountant Keith Peters, 72, admitted two counts of fraudulent accounting at an earlier hearing for his part in assisting Smith and Mair in the enterprise.

The investigation by the CPS involved specialist software used to interrogate financial records belonging to the Welsh Government, which involved reviewing seven million items of digital material.

A forensic accountant was also hired to review financial accounts which revealed that Smith had structured his businesses, which also included Dragon Feeds Ltd and Dragon Baits Ltd, in order to hide the flow of illegitimate funds.

The firm went into administration in 2011.

Speaking after the hearing, deputy chief crown prosecutor of the CPS' specialist fraud division, Janet Potter, 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.