According to a reliable source, the £2.63m grant approved by Meryl in June was not for Celtica Foods, but a separate speculative development.
Update 7 September
Thanks to Redhead (comments below) for drawing attention to an award of £1.99 million to JBCH Developments Ltd for a "food grade industrial unit" in Cross Hands in April 2012. This was approved by Meryl's colleague, Clive Scourfield, who stood down at the May 2012 election.
The mystery deepens, not least because the company's accounts for that year show it was dormant with no activity whatsoever.
The £1.99m grant does tally with a story put out in March of this year by the council's press office. There we are told that the total project cost is £4.4m - (£1.99m+£2.63m=£4.62m).In addition to that is a subsidised loan from Finance Wales and a £1m repayable grant (or interest free loan) to Celtica for the same plant.
Records show that JBCH did not actually acquire the land at Cross Hands until January 2014 - almost two years after the first £1.99m grant was approved.
Update 6 September
The latest revelations came yesterday in a report on Y Post Prynhawn, BBC Radio Cymru's main early evening news programme. The story was not carried on the BBC's English language news programmes. The local press has also so far been silent except for the Llanelli Star which has a version very close to the report in the Western Mail. That does not imply plagiarism, merely that both newspapers were working off the same misleading account put out by the council's press office.
A link to any online BBC article will be posted if and when it becomes available.
Developing the industrial and retail estate at Cross Hands is one of the council's biggest current projects, and as we saw with Meryl's interview yesterday, we can expect the top brass to dismiss any criticism of their actions by claiming that this is all about creating jobs.
To put things into perspective, most of the jobs at the meat processing plant are being relocated from Carmarthen, although "it is hoped" that up to 32 new jobs will be created there over the next five years.
Just a short hop from the JBCH site is a large branch of Co-op which is understood to have cut its workforce by 62 in the last few months. The planned new Sainsbury's superstore at Cross Hands (a development enthusiastically supported by the council) is expected locally to deliver the final blow and bring about the eventual closure of the Co-op supermarket there - all rather ironic for a Labour-led council.
BBC Cymru has followed up the Western Mail's report earlier this week on the £2.63 million grant awarded to a company in Cross Hands with more truly shocking revelations.
Firstly it has emerged that Meryl Gravell approved the grant (in a 15 minute meeting behind closed doors) after the council's Director of Resources, Roger Jones, had asked the Wales Audit Office to investigate the application. Mr Jones acted after an unnamed councillor had expressed serious concern about the way in which the grant was awarded.
It is hard to believe that Cllr Gravell would not have been aware that the application had been referred to the WAO, so why press ahead and approve it, knowing full well that the WAO has called the council's grants management into question, and despite the turmoil over the WAO's public interest reports earlier this year?
To make matters worse, the grant was awarded before JBCH Developments Ltd had entered into a contract to build the meat processing plant, or even it seems, before any company had decided to move to the site. As the BBC reporter, Aled Scourfield, put it, this was "a speculative development". Perhaps speculative grant would have been more accurate.
As the BBC pointed out, the £2.63m went to a company which was incorporated in 1997 but which had never traded and has a share capital of just £2. Remember also that the land on which the new plant will be built was sold by Carmarthenshire County Council to JBCH for an undisclosed sum in January 2014, with the help of a subsidised loan from Finance Wales.
All of this calls into question the honesty of the response the Council gave to the Western Mail only a few days ago. The newspaper was led to believe that everything was in order, and the impression was conveyed that the Council had asked the WAO to take a look just to make sure that all the rules had been followed.
County Hall appears to have realised that this looks very bad indeed, and so Meryl took the highly unusual step for her of answering questions from the media. What we got was exactly what we have all come to expect. Her job was to make sure the council's officers had done their job properly, she said. Everything was fine, and it was all about creating jobs, jobs, jobs. "This is a good news story", she said.
Asked why the grant had been approved before there was even a client for the site, Cllr Gravell said that had not been a problem "for us" because the officers had made sure everything was OK.
Twice during the interview Meryl ("we always defend our officers") appears to shift responsibility onto the officers who processed the grant.
The WAO confirmed that it was still investigating the grant and that it hoped to meet the council soon to discuss its findings.
This one is set to run and run.
Meanwhile there have been more extraordinary twists in the grants scandal in Pembrokeshire, with another outstandingly informative report from the Pembrokeshire Herald.