Friday, October 23, 2020

Llanelli Wellness Village at centre of Welsh uni bribery probe

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A £200m wellness village is at the centre of a police probe into alleged bribery involving a Welsh university.

Eight addresses were searched on Wednesday in connection with a complaint made by Swansea University to the Serious Fraud Office in 2018.

Police said their inquiry is now focussing on the tendering process of the Llanelli Wellness and Life Science Village project.

Project leader Carmarthenshire council said it supported the police inquiry.

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The university said on Wednesday it was co-operating fully with police. It has declined to comment further.

The investigation comes after calls were made by a council opposition group leader for the Welsh Audit Office to investigate the proposal for a village expected to include leisure, education and health services.

The plans form part of the £1.3bn Swansea Bay City Deal and is run in partnership with the university and Hywel Dda and Abertawe Bro Morgannwg health boards.

Related: Swansea University: Police search addresses in bribery probe

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Four staff at the institution were suspended – including its vice chancellor and the dean of school management who were sacked – but no details were revealed about how they were linked.

Prof Richard B Davies, Prof Marc Clement, and two others were initially suspended in November, prompting an internal investigation and disciplinary process.

They have denied any wrongdoing and the professors have said they will appeal against the sackings. The disciplinary process is still ongoing for a third member of staff.

No arrests were made following searches on Wednesday but police said they seized a number of documents and electronic equipment.

Carmarthenshire council said it had commissioned two independent reviews of the Wellness Village, “both of which concluded proper planning and governance for the scheme”.

“However, if there is any criminality linked to the project that the authority is unaware of, then it should be properly investigated by the police and we will support the inquiry in every way possible,” council leader Emlyn Dole said.

“In the meantime, we continue to work hard to deliver this scheme which the residents of Carmarthenshire want and deserve.”

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