LETTER FROM LONDON
It is not a Christmas story, but a multi-million pound affair that is grabbing headlines in the British media this festive season. An emblematic story of executive negligence during the pandemic, which haunts Rishi Sunak’s government almost three years on.
At the heart of this scandal is Michelle Mone, 51, a member of the House of Lords with an atypical profile, a businesswoman of very modest origins, with candor. According to Guardian, which has been investigating for several months, this member of the Conservative Party is suspected of pocketing 29 million pounds of public money, thanks to a contract given by the British state at the beginning of the pandemic for the supply of masks and protective equipment . dresses that turned out to be useless. Mme Mone and her second husband, Douglas Barrowman, deny any connection with the company that benefited from the government contracts, PPE Med Pro.
At the end of March 2020, NHS (public hospital) staff are severely short of masks and protective gowns (or “PPE”, e.g. personal protection). Doctors and nurses are rationed to one mask a day, and some staff go so far as to use garbage bags as gowns. In an emergency, Boris Johnson’s Conservative government is significantly easing the conditions for awarding tenders, and to recruit suppliers more quickly, the Department of Health is establishing a “VIP line”a prioritized list of businesses recommended by ministers, MPs or members of the House of Lords.
Private jet, yacht, real estate…
On 8 May 2020, Michelle Mone uses her personal email to contact Conservative Theodore Agnew, a peer from the House of Lords, and Minister Michael Gove, a member of Boris Johnson’s cabinet. She explains to them that she can give them PPE ” thanks to [ses] team in Hong Kong”, tell it Guardian. Michelle Mone gets a mysterious company, PPE Medpro, added to the VIP list. A few weeks later, this company won two major public contracts. One of £80.85 million for the supply of 210 million masks and the other of £122 million for 25 million sterile gowns.
These will never be used as they have not passed the Ministry of Health’s safety tests. However, PPE company MedPro is making an impressive profit, with much of it going to Mr Barrowman, according to documents seen by Guardian and Financial Times with HSBC bank. Ms husbandme Mone will receive at least £65m from Medpro PPE in September 2020 through the Warren Trust of which he is the beneficiary. According to HSBC documents, part of the profit from PPE MedPro – 29 million – is paid to an offshore trust whose beneficiaries are M.me Mone and her three children.
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