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Neath rugby club owner arrested in police fraud probe.

Byline: Martin Shipton Chief Reporter martin.shipton@walesonline.co.uk

BUSINESSMAN Geraint Hawkes, the co-owner of Neath Rugby Club, has been arrested by detectives over allegations of fraud and money-laundering.

Mr Hawkes, 47, and another man, understood to be an accountant, were arrested yesterday morning. The club owner's mother Janis Hawkes, 73, is also helping police with inquiries, but has not been arrested.

It is understood the allegations relate to the rugby club and other business interests of Mr Hawkes.

A police spokesman said: "As part of an ongoing complex fraud investigation officers from the Wales Regional Asset Recovery Team, supported by officers from the National Crime Agency, have today executed warrants at a number of addresses in the South Wales area, including at Neath Rugby Football Club.

"Two men, a 47-year-old and a 44-yearold from the Swansea area, have been arrested on suspicion of fraud and money laundering. They remain in police custody at this time and are assisting officers with their inquiries. A 73-year-old female is also assisting officers with their enquiries."

Last November Mr Hawkes posted an open letter on the Neath RFC's website and insisted the Welsh All Blacks were not in financial trouble. It read: "Recent allegations that have been made against me personally are simply unfounded and I intend proving this."

Mr Hawkes led a consortium of businessmen which bought Neath Rugby Club in 2003.

He later had a spectacular falling out with Ospreys director Mike Cuddy, leading to a multi-million-pound court case which ended in December 2007 with both sides claiming victory.

The two millionaires were locked in a legal wrangle over who controlled Neath and who should represent them on the Ospreys board.

The case saw Mr Hawkes attempt to force Mr Cuddy to sell his 50% share in Neath, which would have seen him relinquish his role as a joint director of the Ospreys.

At the conclusion of the hearing, Mr Justice Lewis confirmed both Mr Cuddy's share in Neath and his directorship of the high-profile Ospreys.

It was also ruled Neath and Swansea RFC would appoint an extra director to the Ospreys board, while Mr Hawkes would gain full control of the Neath board.

Mr Hawkes lives in Swansea and his mother lives in the Neath Valley.

In May 2012, Neath Rugby Club escaped a winding-up order at the High Court in London after a dispute over unpaid tax.

A registrar dismissed an order at the request of lawyers for Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC) after it accepted its debts had been paid.

In March of that year Mr Hawkes said the Principality Premiership club's outstanding liabilities would be met in full to head-off being wound up.

Last November Mr Hawkes held an open meeting at The Gnoll, Neath RFC's stadium, to reassure supporters that the club was on a safe footing.

The club - known as the Welsh All Blacks - is currently second from bottom in the Welsh Premiership and visits Bedwas on Saturday.

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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Apr 3, 2014
Words:499
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