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Port Talbot conman jailed for claiming almost £5m of EU and Welsh Government money

Anthony Smith pleaded guilty to three counts of fraudulent trading. Credit: South Wales Police

A man from Port Talbot has been sentenced to three years and nine months for fraudulently claiming almost £5m pounds worth of European Union and Welsh Government grants.

72-year-old Anthony Smith admitted claiming large sums of money to develop fish food.

The former steel worker made false promises that it would bring 120 jobs to Port Talbot and Pendine in Carmarthenshire. But only seven positions were created.

£4.7m
The amount of taxpayers' money Smith claimed.

This case involves a number of frauds on the public purse.

In each case the companies run by Anthony Smith made applications to the Welsh Government for grant award from public funds.

Those grants running cumulatively into the millions and being drawn from both EU and Welsh Government funds.

– Prosecutor Shane Collery

Smith was previously praised by Prince Charles 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 had fed was "absolutely delicious".

But Smith was found to have gone on holidays to Bali and Hawaii and drove a Porsche and Lamborghini after being given the grants.

In 2006, he claimed £1m from the Welsh Government to build 270 ponds but fewer than a quarter of the ponds were installed.

Smith (right) entering court earlier today. Credit: ITV Cymru Wales

The basic method of the fraud was to pretend in the grant application that the project would cost more than it really would and then, when making claims on the award, to pretend more had been spent on the project than was the truth.

The project reached the heights of absurdity, and also dishonesty, when one company, effectively controlled by Smith, pretended to buy 20,000 tonnes of sand for the construction of ponds.

In fact, the sand was to be found in the very land in which the ponds were being dug.

The site, after all, at Pendine on the Welsh coast is well known for its sand dunes.

– Prosecutor Shane Collery

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

He ran the businesses with Colin Mair, 68, who admitted one count of fraudulent trading, and Keith Peters, 72, who admitted two counts of false accounting.

Colin Mair, 68, was sentenced to 21 months custody, suspended for 18 months and ordered to pay £15,000.

Chartered accountant Kevin Peters, 72, was jailed for one year and three months.

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.

– Janet Potter, CPS

The Welsh Government said it "welcomed" the sentencing, and added it takes fraud "extremely seriously".

Whilst South Wales Police said the sentencing was the result of nearly a decade long investigation.

Today’s sentencing marks the end of an eight year investigation by South Wales Police into the fraudulent activities of a number of grant-funded companies.

The overwhelming amount of evidence gathered during this painstaking investigation has resulted in Anthony Smith, Colin Mair and Keith Peters being sentenced for their role in a fraud worth more than £5 million to the public purse.

– Detective Chief Inspector Nick Bellamy of South Wales Police Economic Crime Unit

Smith pleaded guilty to three counts of fraudulent trading.