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Charity boss stole £1.3m and spent it on luxury boats, private flights and extravagant holidays

An ex-charity finance boss has been jailed for stealing £1.3m from a homeless charity and spending it on luxury boats, private flights and extravagant hotels.

Robert Davies, 50, who used to work as head of finance for Swansea-based charity Cyrenians Cymru, was sent to prison for five years after admitting fraud by abuse of position.

Sentencing at Cardiff Crown Court, Judge Eleri Rees noted the defendant spent the stolen money on a “lavish lifestyle”.

The court heard he spent more than £100,000 on boats, £80,000 on stays at five star hotel The Savoy and £26,000 on trips in private planes.

Carl Harrison, prosecuting, said Davies took a total of £1,343,074 between June 2008 and November 2014 by paying 271 cheques into his personal bank account.

Robert Mark Davies

Cyrenians Cymru, which was based on Walter Road in Swansea, had been operating for 40 years, providing support to homeless and vulnerable people.

Chief executive Conrad Watkins said: “Our projects have literally saved lives.”

Prosecutors said Davies used his knowledge as an accountant to “cover his tracks” by making fake documents to create a false audit trail.

Mr Harrison told the court the defendant’s actions were a factor in the charity going into administration, which resulted in many employees losing their jobs.

The court heard Davies had worked for the charity for about 10 years and was a “trusted” member of staff.

Davies spent £250,000 keeping a boat in Swansea Marina

Mr Harrison said his offending came to light when a cheque bounced and it was discovered the charity was “simply running out of money”.

The chief executive initially thought Davies was “incompetent” and the defendant resigned in November 2014.

An independent financial investigation was launched and investigators discovered “suspicious” invoices. They also noticed Davies was “evasive” when questioned about certain transactions.

Davies was arrested in December 2014 and when officers suggested he had stolen £800,000, he told them the figure could be much higher.

Police searched his address in Hewson Street, Swansea, and seized his computer, which was holding “bogus” invoices.

He paid £26,000 for trips in private aircraft

The court heard Davies told his wife the £1.3m had come from bonuses, in addition to his £45,000 annual salary.

Prosecutors said he took his family on holidays to Japan, Africa and America in 2014, as well as spending £250,000 on mooring a boat in Swansea Marina.

He spent more than £80,000 on 15 stays at The Savoy and paid £280 to hire a Bentley to Heathrow Airport.

On one occasion he spent £528 on room service at The Ritz and on another, more than £1,200 on a meal at a seafood restaurant.

Prosecutors said Davies paid more than £26,000 for private flights, including £7,000 on a flight from Swansea to Paris, and more than £100,000 on boats.

Davies spent £280 hiring a Bentley to take him to Heathrow Airport

Mr Harrison argued aggravating factors included the fact his offending could undermine confidence in charities.

David Leathley, defending, stressed his client had no previous convictions and had shown remorse through his guilty plea.

He accepted the amount involved was “quite astonishing” and described Davies as “a larger-than-life spendthrift”.

Mr Leathley said the defendant, a regular church-goer, was happily married with two children and enjoyed bell ringing in his spare time.

The defence barrister added: “He decided he would pay himself a bonus. He is sorry.”

And he stayed at The Savoy 15 times, spending more than £80,000

He argued his client’s actions were not the only factor contributing to the charity becoming insolvent.

Mr Leathley told the court Davies, whose assets have been frozen, is a bone marrow donor and has become involved with projects in prison to help homeless people.

Judge Rees described the offending as “astonishing”, adding: “At the time, you were financial director of a charity for the homeless and poorest in the community.”

She noted the defendant tried to blame others, but told him: “You, and you alone, are responsible.”

Davies was jailed for five years and ordered to pay a victim surcharge. A hearing will be held in November under the Proceeds of Crime Act.

Speaking after the hearing, Detective Sergeant Stuart Prendiville, from South Wales Police, described the investigation as “complex and protracted”.

He said: “Davies abused both his position as an employee of Cyrenians Cymru and his responsibility to safeguard the financial interests of this organisation.

“This investigation and subsequent sentence sends out a clear message that we will bring offenders before the courts to face justice.”

This is how Davies spent the money:

  • Davies ate out at restaurants three or four times a week.
  • He spent £250,000 a year on mooring a boat in Swansea Marina.
  • The defendant took his family on holiday to Japan, Africa and America in 2014.
  • Davies stayed at The Savoy 15 times between February 2011 and October 2014 and spent more than £80,000.
  • He spent £280 on hiring a Bentley to take him to Heathrow Airport.
  • £1,282 was spent on a meal at a seafood restaurant in March 2014.
  • The defendant paid £528 for room service at The Ritz.
  • He spent a total of £26,653 on flights in private aircraft, including £7,910 on a private flight from Swansea to Paris.
  • Between 2012 and 2013, he spent £42,038 on servicing and repairing boats.
  • The defendant spent more than £100,000 on boats.

These are his boats which were seized by police:

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