Northwood owner accused of trying to defraud another recycling firm
9:00am Friday 12th October 2012 in By Josh Layton
A RECYCLING company that went into administration leaving 65 apprentices and workers without jobs has been hit by a new claim — that its owner tried to defraud another firm.
Northwood Environmental MD James Jennings is accused of using the name of Think 3E in a funding application worth millions of pounds without permission.
Think 3E, a recycling consortium based in Wellingborough, Northamptonshire, has made a complaint to the police which has been passed to Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs.
Northwood Environmental, set up to reduce youth unemployment in Swindon, closed two weeks ago with staff told they were being made redundant.
Apprentices based on the Hawksworth Industrial Estate had worked for up to four months without being paid, with some facing eviction from their homes.
However, no administrator has yet been willing to take on the firm, which has no assets, meaning employees face an anxious wait for payouts and wages.
The collapse came amid claims involving Northwood and training provider Skillsfinder, which has also gone into administration.
North Swindon MP Justin Tomlinson has called for tough penalties if wrongdoing is found by any party in a fiasco which grows “murkier by the day”.
Mr Jennings faces claims by Think 3E that he and a former employee, who cannot be named for legal reasons, falsely claimed the company was involved in a bid for funding from the Welsh Government.
The application was for millions of pounds from the Welsh Growth Fund.
Think 3E managing director Marcus Baldry said: “They wanted to use our company’s credibility, trading history and awards to front a consortium bid which we had not agreed to.
“Myself and a colleague were listed as employees of Northwood. We were not and never had been.”
He added: “Because the bid was in Northwood’s name, the Department of Work and Pensions would not release any information to us, but we managed to retrieve a copy which we found had been signed by Mr Jennings.”
Think 3E went to Northamptonshire Police in March with the fraud claims and complained to the chief constable in June about a lack of progress and communication from the force. It provided a copy of correspondence and a crime reference number.
Terry Fox, Think 3E’s head of supply and logistics, said if the police had acted quicker it might have stopped Northwood expanding its national operations into Swindon.
But Mr Jennings reacted with surprise when told about the claim.
He said: “I’m aware of a company called Think 3E, it has nothing to do with us at all and it’s the first “I’ve heard of it. “I’m slightly perturbed to hear that there’s an investigation into it.
“I heard of the unauthorised activities, it was highlighted to us by a number of organisations but we don’t have any relationship with them and I don’t know the details.”
A police spokesman said: “The investigation has been passed on to Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs. By their very nature fraud investigations are quite a lengthy process as relationships between companies need to be looked at along with paper trails.”
An HMRC spokesman said she could not confirm or deny ongoing investigations.