Michelle Mone: The Tory peer facing ‘shocking’ allegations of pandemic profiteering

The former lingerie entrepreneur reportedly made £29m in profit from dubious PPE firm she recommended to government ministers

Michelle Mone
Profiteering allegations could do ‘colossal damage’ to the public's faith in the government
(Image credit: Stefan Rousseau/AFP via Getty Images)

If you’re like me, and your eyes glaze over at the words “PPE” and “Covid contracts”, then you may not have taken in the truly “shocking” details of how the Tory peer Michelle Mone allegedly made millions from the pandemic, said Camilla Long in The Sunday Times.

In May 2020, the former lingerie entrepreneur emailed Michael Gove and others telling them that “my team in Hong Kong” could help the Government secure desperately needed protective equipment for health­care workers, and proposing a firm called PPE Medpro as a “VIP fast track” supplier. The company didn’t even exist as a legal entity until five days after that, and it had no assets or special expertise other than contacts at a factory in China. Yet within weeks, this start-up was miraculously awarded £203m worth of contracts to supply PPE, about half of which proved to be defective and was not used.

The wastefulness is appalling, but it is the sheer shadiness of the deal that is really sickening, said Barbara Davies in the Daily Mail. Mone and her husband, Doug Barrowman, claimed to have no involvement with PPE Medpro. Yet the firm’s registered owner was an employee at his Isle of Man company; and leaked HSBC reports, seen by The Guardian and the FT, appear to show that he was paid £65m in PPE Medpro’s profits; and that he then transferred a £28.8m slice of this money to a secret offshore trust for Mone and her children. The affair stinks of “moral corruption”, said The Guardian. “If capitalism during a national emergency can be so easily rigged to favour connected insiders, then the country is in trouble.”

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I’ve always believed that the PPE procurement “farce” was more cock-up than conspiracy, said Hugo Rifkind in The Times. Though it never looked good that contracts were dished out to Tory donors and Matt Hancock’s pub landlord, I put it down to “the powers that be” making poor decisions because they were in a panic – as the rest of us were, and “all we had to procure was toilet paper”. But the theory “doesn’t half take a battering when confronted with a Tory peer and her kids being £29m richer than they were in 2019”. That’s something new – and at a time when public faith in government is already low, it will do “colossal damage”.

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