By Ian Westbrook | Sunday 2 May 2021
Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours. I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it (other than from ShareProphets). I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.
As has been previously documented, on Monday 19th April I sent my reply to Ricketts’ Cheltenham lawyers. The following day (Tuesday 20th) Mr Tom Winnifrith published his ‘precedent’ article and I sent a screengrab of the article to Messrs Blaggem, Rippem & Scarper, attached to the following email:
“I refer you to the attached article, published this morning on the ShareProphets web site.
I look forward to receiving from you – by Friday 30th April – documentary proof that your client made the donation to his old school that he claims to have made, or published proof of a change of mind about making the donation. If I do not receive such documentary evidence from you by that date, I believe I will be fully entitled to believe that no such proof exists.
If no such proof is forthcoming, I believe your client may be exposed to legal hazard for malicious prosecution. If he cannot prove that my claim is false, ipso facto it must be true. If he has threatened me with libel for stating the truth, to try and shut me up, that is malicious prosecution, defined as:
“Like the tort of abuse of process, its elements include (1) intentionally (and maliciously) instituting and pursuing (or causing to be instituted or pursued) a legal action (civil or criminal) that is (2) brought without probable cause and (3) dismissed in favor of the victim of the malicious prosecution.””
On Friday 30th April – the deadline I had set for proof of the donation to be provided, Wyedean – Ricketts’ old school – tweeted the following, with a picture of a room with a dozen or so PCs on desks:
NCSC and neillricketts for making this fantastic resource possible.”
Ricketts’ dwindling band of die-hard supporters immediately seized on this as ‘proof’ that the donation had been made and that I was therefore wrong.
I beg to differ.
1/ The timing.
When did the ‘John Nettleship’ science lab go live? Well it never has but that was the excuse for the £154,000 net of tax share sales so many years agio – to fund that. Now there is a new rather smaller facility furnished with 12 PCs and a big screen. Are we expected to believe that by a stunning coincidence it went live on the very day I had set as a deadline for proof to be provided? Surely not. So when did it become operational, and why was there no tweet of thanks to Neill Ricketts then? Why did the school only tweet on the day of the deadline? I refuse to believe that is a coincidence.
2/ The language.
Read the tweet again.
NCSC and neillricketts for making this fantastic resource possible.”
If an old boy had just donated £30k (sorry: to be accurate, ‘up to £30k’), would you not be a bit more effusive? Would you not praise them to the skies in the hope of getting more dosh from them? Would you not stroke their ego as a great philanthropist? You might say something like “only made possible with a very generous donation from
neillricketts” or “it wouldn’t have happened without the generosity of neillricketts”. When you think of all the things they could have said, their actual statement looks to me like damning with faint praise.
3/ The NCSC? Who they?
A brief Google search reveals that the NCSC is, in fact, the National Cyber Security Centre. The obvious question to ask – and we will be asking it, in court – is this: what is the National Cyber Security Centre doing making a donation to a school for a science lab? That is, to say the least, very curious.
Perhaps Ricketts mediated a conversation between the NCSC and Wyedean, using his contacts in government (or perhaps Matt Walker’s contacts in government) to procure a donation. Perhaps he spotted that the NCSC had a fund for making such donations and put the school in touch with them. The word ‘thanks’ in the tweet could mean very many things, not just – or perhaps not even – a donation.
In my email to Ricketts’ solicitor I asked for documentary proof of the donation from the proceeds of the share sales. For Ricketts tried to justify the sbhare dumping which funded his new Tesla on the basis of this philanthropy. No such documentary proof has been provided by the deadline I set. If such proof exists, why not provide it now? We will be asking for it as part of Discovery anyway if Ricketts goes ahead with his ridiculous libel claim, but that is years away. Ricketts could close this down right now. He could tweet an excerpt from his bank statement, and from a Wyedean bank statement, showing the money (however much it actually was) leaving his account and going to theirs (he could easily blur the rest of the image so that only identifying info and the relevant line entry were discernible). Or his solicitor could send those to me, and I would happily assign an NDA not to publish or distribute them further.
Like so many shareholders who invested in Versarien and lost money – mercifully not too much in my case, but life-changing sums for some – I’m afraid I am not prepared to cut Ricketts any slack whatsoever. I am not prepared to give him the benefit of any doubt. I want to see hard proof.
Courts decide cases on facts supported by evidence. That tweet contains no facts and is evidence-free. It looks to me to be very carefully worded to imply that the lab was due to Ricketts without actually mentioning a donation. And personally, I think the timing of it reeks.
Of course this whole question of the donation is something of a side-show anyway. Nobody decided whether or not to invest in Versarien based on a donation Ricketts did (or did not) make to his old school. The existence or otherwise of the donation speaks to Ricketts’ integrity and probity – or the lack of those attributes.
Of much more importance to the very many shareholders who invested in Versarien down the years and lost money are the repeated misrepresentations about progress with the c100 collaborations, and perhaps most of all over China. Versarien signed MOUs in China, which are binding. At one stage Versarien (VRS) was, allegedly, talking to 37 different parties across China – multiple provinces, multiple private companies (inasmuch as any such thing exists in China), multiple state entities. And it all came to precisely nothing but the puping allowed Ricketts to sell vast numbers of his own shares and also to raise fresh funds to keep the lights on at the company.
Two years of effort, chasing ‘staggering’ and ‘mind-blowing’ opportunities. Setting up a WOFE. Setting up a holding company in Hong Kong (I think it was). Multiple expensive trips to China by company management. Nothing but bullish, upbeat statements about progress. And it all came to nothing. Why?
That will be my next area of focus.
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