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  1. ITV Report

Search for investors' missing money agreed by judge in Afan Valley case

Investors in a series of hotels and care homes - some of which were never built - have moved a step closer to finding out what happened to millions of pounds they handed over to financier Gavin Woodhouse.

The firm was behind a proposed adventure resort in the Afan Valley

The High Court has given accountants powers to find out what happened to money invested in Northern Powerhouse Developments, the firm behind the proposed Afan Valley Adventure Resort, as well as other companies controlled by the same businessman.

Gavin Woodhouse was also behind firms that promised to build care homes but an investigation by ITV News and the Guardian newspaper revealed that little work had been carried out.

The judge granted interim powers to the accountancy firm Duff & Phelps.

This is not just insolvency; it is about what has been going on behind the curtain of limited liability. These inter-company loans [have been] written off in their millions [of pounds]. This is investors' money."

– Judge Barber

The Welsh Government had been enthusiastic about the Afan Valley project, with the Economy Minister, Ken Skates, appearing in a publicity video.

Today, First Minister Mark Drakeford was questioned about it in the Senedd by the Plaid Cymru leader, Adam Price.

Plaid Cymru leader questioned Mark Drakeford on why the Welsh Government 'expressed enthusiastic support' for the company

Could I finally turn to some news that has broken in the last few hours, which is the interim administration order against the company involved in the Afan Valley adventure resort? The judge in that case has today said of the company, Northern Powerhouse Developments, that theirs was 'a thoroughly dishonest business model' and 'a shameful abuse of the privileges of limited liability trading'.

I will be writing to the Serious Fraud Office today to ask them to initiate an immediate inquiry.

But in the meantime, can the First Minister say, given what we've heard from the judge, why the Welsh Government expressed enthusiastic support for the company and its project on several occasions, including the Economy Minister appearing in its promotional videos?

– Plaid Cymru Leader Adam Price AM

Let me give Members this assurance: not a single penny of Welsh money from this Government has gone to that company, and I'd be grateful if the Member would make that clear in any letter he intends to write.

– First Minister Mark Drakeford AM

There'll be a full court hearing at a later date, when the judge is likely to decide whether to put the businesses into formal administration.