Sunday 17 December 2023

REMEMBERING : The Life and Times of Michelle Georgina Mone, née Allan and better known as Baroness “Right Honourable” Mone…



Michelle Mone: The rise and fall of Scotland's bra queen

27th November


By Gabriel McKay

Digital Journalist


Love or loathe Michelle Mone, she’s always been hard to ignore – the woman herself would credit her business empire to her knack for attracting publicity.


The glare of the public spotlight may not be resting so comfortably on the skin of the bra tycoon though following allegations she and her family used PPE contracts awarded by the British government as the Covid crisis raged to enrich themselves.


The Conservative peer faces a standards investigation in the House of Lords, while her ties to a company tasked with producing hospital gowns for the NHS are being probed by law enforcement and the House of Lords.


It’s just the latest twist in the tale of a self-proclaimed one-woman success story – a story which has had plenty of twists and turns up to this point.


Raised in the East End of Glasgow, Mone first came to prominence in 1999 with the launch of the Ultimo bra, which the entrepreneur said was inspired by her experience of wearing an uncomfortable cleavage-booster and realising she could come up with a better design.


In May of the following year Ultimo launched at the Sak’s Fifth Avenue store in New York City, and it was claimed that Julia Roberts wore one of the bras for her role in Erin Brockovich.


Mone and her company MJM International would go on to launch a range of diet pills, as well as partnering with the likes of ASDA, Debenham’s and doing modelling campaigns with Kelly Brook, Gemma Atkinson and Mel B of the Spice Girls.


HeraldScotland: Michelle Mone, centre, used her first Lords vote to oppose the delay to cut tax credits


Close scrutiny


Almost from the start of Mone’s entrepreneurial career there have been questions surrounding the legitimacy of her much-vaunted achievements.


Her business career started with Canadian beer brand Labatt, with the Scotswoman admitting that she faked details on her CV to land the role.

Publicity for Ultimo went through the roof thanks to reports that Julia Roberts had worn one of the bras for her Oscar-winning turn in Erin Brockovich, though this has been denied by several of the filmmakers.


A 2015 profile of Mone in European CEO stated that the actress herself had mentioned the undergarment in her acceptance speech for the Academy Award but if she did then it wasn’t on stage at the ceremony – the footage is freely available on YouTube and features no mention of a bra.


MJM’s ‘Trimsecrets’ diet pills, produced in collaboration with Jan de Vries, were described as having “no scientific basis or rationale” and while the entrepreneur had claimed their efficacy had been proven in clinical trials when questioned by The Guardian, Mone stated that the trial had in fact been a 63-person questionnaire, for which she was unable to produce the results.


Ultimo losses


Questions were also raised over the success of her business empire. Despite claims she was worth £50m, MJM made losses of £780,000 in the 2013 financial year before passing its assets to its parent company, Ultimo Brands, which also made a loss.


A former employee, Scott Kilday, was awarded £15,000 in compensation after discovering a plant pot in his office had been bugged, ostensibly due to fears he was planning to leave and work with Mone’s ex-husband, Michael.


Despite those concerns, Mone began to establish herself as a political player. Setting herself up as a staunch unionist, the businesswoman threatened to leave Scotland if the SNP won the 2007 Holyrood election and was a firm advocate for a No vote in the 2014 independence referendum.


Shortly thereafter she was appointed to an unpaid role as the Conservative government’s ‘start-up czar’, which drew backlash from other entrepreneurs.



Describing Mone as a ‘small-time businesswoman’, Douglas Anderson of Gap Group said: “Her businesses have been no more than excessively over promoted PR minnows gaining unjustified acclaim due to the glamorous sector they happen to be in.


“There is no way, by any measure, that she is qualified to advise anybody on setting up a profitable business, because quite simply, she hasn’t!”.


Mone resigned as a director of MJM in August 2015. It was wound up last year with debts of over £300,000.


Lording it


Mone was given a peerage by Prime Minister David Cameron in 2015, but in the following six years spoke just five times and submitted 22 written questions.


Her appointment was criticised by both opposition and Tory figures at the time, with one branding her “a public relations creation, a personal brand rather than a serious businesswoman”.


Prevailing events tended to back that assessment. Her UTan range, launched through UBeauty Global, was claimed by Mone to have cost £1m to develop but the company’s first set of accounts showed it to be worth less than £25,000.


She and partner Doug Barrowman launched a cryptocurrency in 2018 hoping to raise $80m, with the baroness describing herself as “one of the biggest experts in Cryptocurrency and Blockchain”. By August, The Sunday Times reported that the project had “flopped” and all investors had been refunded.


Mone was also accused in 2019 of sending a racist WhatsApp message describing a man of Indian heritage as “a waste of a man’s white skin”, which she denies, with a representative responding that the baroness and her husband had “built over 15 schools in Africa”.


The biggest scandal of all, however, would break in October of 2020.


PPE ‘fastlane’


In October of 2020 The Herald revealed that the British government had awarded a £122m contract to supply personal protective equipment (PPE) to a company run by a former associate of Baroness Mone without going out to tender.


The justification given was that the equipment was needed urgently as cases of Covid spiked, with the contract handed out to supply 25 million gowns for health workers.


It was awarded by the Department of Health and Social Care just a month after the company, Medpro, was founded.


The gowns were never used.


A spokeswoman for Baroness Mone said that she had no comment as she has no role or involvement in PPE Medpro, which received over £200m in total via government contracts.


The spokeswoman added: “Mr Barrowman (Mone’s husband) is also not involved in the company… and is not a Director or Shareholder.”


It later emerged that Mone had referred the company to the government in March 2020. Leaked emails later suggested she had been promoting Covid tests sold by the company as late as October 2020.


This week leaked documents appeared to show that Mone and her children secretly received £29m from the profits made by Medpro through a secret offshore trust of which they were beneficiaries.


The documents, produced by HSBC, state Barrowman was paid at least £65m by the company and then distributed the funds through a series of offshore accounts, trusts and companies.


The funds landed in Barrowman’s account just before he and Mone’s wedding and honeymoon, while The Sun reported in August 2021 that the bra tycoon’s children had spent more than £3m on property in Glasgow during the pandemic.


Mone’s shared home was raided in April 2022 as part of a National Crime Agency investigation into Medpro, while a separate investigation into standards is taking place in the House of Lords.


For Mone you might say it’s win or bust.

Michelle Mone, Baroness Mone

Michelle Georgina Mone, Baroness Mone, OBE (née Allan; born October 1971) is a British businesswoman and Conservative life peer. She has set up several businesses, including MJM International Ltd in 1996 and the lingerie company Ultimo along with her then husband Michael Mone. Other ventures include naturopathic 'weight-loss' pills, and a fake tan product via Ultimo Beauty.


Mone became a Conservative life peer in 2015. From 2020 to 2022, in a series of investigative pieces, The Guardian reported that Mone and her children had secretly received £29 million of profits to an offshore trust from government PPE contracts, which she had lobbied for during the COVID-19 pandemic. The House of Lords Commissioner for Standards and National Crime Agency launched investigations into Mone's links to these contracts in January 2022. Mone announced in December 2022 that she was taking a leave of absence from the House of Lords "to clear her name" amid the allegations.


Early life

Born in October 1971, Michelle Allan grew up in Glasgow's East End. She recounted how she had lived with her family in a one-bedroomed house with no bath or shower until she was ten. She also told of how her younger brother, who had spina bifida, died at the age of eight, when she was ten years old, and that her father, who was suffering from cancer, lost the use of his legs when she was fifteen.


She left school aged 15, with no qualifications, to pursue a modelling career. At 17 she met her future husband, Michael Mone, and by 18 years old, she was pregnant with her first child, Rebecca. She then converted from Protestantism to Catholicism and married Michael, an anaesthetist's son from a Catholic family.


Business career

Mone obtained a marketing job with the Labatt brewing company and, within two years, had risen to become its head of marketing in Scotland.  She was then made redundant by the company, prompting her to set up her own business, and has since admitted that she had invented qualifications on her CV to obtain the job.


MJM International

In November 1996 she founded MJM International with her then-husband Michael. In August 1999, Mone launched the Ultimo lingerie brand at Selfridges department store in London. Mone came up with the idea for the Ultimo bra, the brand's first product, when she was wearing an uncomfortable cleavage-enhancing bra one day and believed she could create a more comfortable cleavage-enhancing bra.Mone had read about a new silicone product while on holiday in Florida and approached the company to obtain its European licence to produce bras. Mone has claimed that an Ultimo bra was worn by Julia Roberts in the Hollywood movie, Erin Brockovich, but this was denied by the film's creators. Ultimo went on to include other products, such as backless dresses and shapewear, which led to MJM International's growth.


Mone left MJM International briefly in 2013 following the breakdown of her relationship with her then husband. The business assets were transferred to its parent firm, Ultimo Brands International Ltd, in a partnership with MAS Holdings.[4] MJM International was then dissolved. In November 2014, Mone sold down her stake in Ultimo Brands International to 20% to partner MAS Holdings.

In 2014, a former operations director for MJM won a claim for unfair dismissal from her company after discovering that Mone had authorised electronic bugging of his office.


Mone threatened to sue her critics when it was revealed her company MJM International had paid a substantial sum of money into a controversial tax avoidance scheme, criticised by Chancellor George Osborne as "morally repugnant". Following a test case brought by HMRC against Rangers Football Club, the employee benefit trust (the type of tax avoidance scheme used by MJM International) was ruled illegal in November 2015. Mone said she had "not done anything wrong" in relation to tax avoidance and that her ex-husband had "dealt with all the finance". In August 2015, Mone resigned her directorships of both MJM and Ultimo, saying she had sold 80% of the latter.


TrimSecrets and weight loss

TrimSecrets were weight loss pills originally formulated by the naturopath Jan de Vries. The product also consisted of diet and exercise advice.[13] In 2006 MJM formed a joint venture with Jan de Vries, taking a 50% share in the product.[14][13] Mone claimed that exercise and reduced caloric intake had no effect on her weight and credited TrimSecrets pills with her weight loss. Mone also falsely claimed the efficacy of the product had been proven in clinical trials, but when questioned further, she explained that approximately 60 users had completed a questionnaire but was unable to produce the results.


In October 2013, Jan de Vries sold his interest in the company with Mone having 60% of the business and a silent business partner the remaining 40%.In August 2015 it was reported that the company had made a loss in each of the last four years that accounts were available.


In November 2015, Mone was criticised for using her "Baroness Mone"-styled Twitter account to promote TrimSecrets pills, although a spokesman for Mone said she had disposed of her ownership of the firm before her tweet. A spokesman for the British Dietetic Association said "there is no scientific basis or rationale for these products, they are making claims which are unfounded and feeding into public confusion around nutrition and pseudo-science."


On the ITV programme Loose Women in 2020, Mone said she lost weight during the COVID-19 lockdown by exercising three times a day. She stated: "When I was overweight and in a very uncomfortable horrible marriage, my way of coping with that was to continuously eat."


Ultimo Beauty/Ubeauty Global

In 2012 Mone's company, Ultimo Beauty, launched a fake tan product.[18][19] In 2014 when announcing that she had sold most of her stake in Ultimo, she confirmed she had taken 100% control of Ubeauty Global, consisting of the assets of Ultimo Beauty.


In 2016, after she was made a peer, Mone changed the company formation so that it no longer had to publish public trading accounts. In February 2017 accounts for the company were published, covering the time from 2014 to 2016 and it was revealed the company had assets of £23,000. In March 2017, Mone announced that she had sold the company.


Aston Plaza development

In 2017, Mone and her partner Doug Barrowman launched a £250m residential development in Dubai which they claimed was to be the "first-ever development to be priced in bitcoin". In April 2019, The Sunday Times reported that the development was "on hold" with the construction incomplete, while a spokesman for Mone said that it was going "extremely well" and was in the process of being redesigned.


Equi cryptocurrency

In 2018, Mone and her partner Doug Barrowman launched a cryptocurrency called Equi through a company called Equi Capital. It aimed to raise $80m which would be invested in startup companies. Mone described herself as "one of the biggest experts in Cryptocurrency and Blockchain" and promoted the project as the "bitcoin of Britain". The company recruited 1,000 people to promote the cryptocurrency through social media, but they only raised £1,600. According to Barrowman, £5.4m of tokens were sold in a "pre-sale offering" but the public sale beginning in March 2018 raised only £540,000. By August 2018, The Sunday Times reported that the project had "flopped" and all investors had been refunded.The Financial Times reported that it had "ended in a fiasco that exposes the total absence of oversight in the ICO market".


Political career

Mone says she previously supported the Labour Party, as did her family, but withdrew her support in 2009 after the prime minister, Gordon Brown, increased the top income tax rate to 50%, also indicating that she would leave the UK. She further stated that Brown and his government mismanaged the country's finances during the global economic crisis.


During the London riots in August 2011, Mone called for the army to be brought in and tweeted "People who riot, steal, cover face deserve zero human rights". In January 2012, she gave an interview to The Sunday Times stating her intention to move herself and her business to England were Scotland to become independent following the 2014 referendum on the issue. However, despite Scotland voting No in the referendum, Mone confirmed a few months later that she was leaving Scotland.


On 10 August 2015, the government announced that Mone would lead a two-part review into entrepreneurship and small businesses, particularly focusing upon setting up small businesses in deprived areas, under the Work and Pensions Secretary, Iain Duncan Smith. On 27 August 2015, the prime minister, David Cameron, announced a list of new creations of life peers, including Mone. Her inclusion drew criticism from other business leaders. Some Conservatives questioned her suitability for the House of Lords. The Scotsman reported that senior Scottish Conservatives also criticised Cameron's action, with an unnamed Conservative describing Mone as "a public relations creation, a personal brand rather than a serious businesswoman".


Mone was criticised on Twitter when her first vote in the House of Lords was to vote against a motion to delay government cuts to tax credits of around £1,300 a year for three million low-income families. Mone responded to the controversy by tweeting that people should "work hard" and not "look for excuses" for their own poverty.[39] In October 2016 she said that she was wrong to support the cuts and she regretted the way she voted.


Attendance in House of Lords

In her maiden speech in the House of Lords, Mone stated: "I look forward to playing a full and active role in your lordships’ house". The Times reported in 2018 that in the previous year, Mone had only attended the House of Lords on 12 % of the days in which it was sitting, missing important debates including on the Brexit bill. Her low attendance led SNP MSP Rona Mackay to describe her as the "Layabout Lady of Mayfair" and businessman Douglas Anderson, who had criticised her original appointment, called for her to resign.By early 2022, Mone had made only five speeches in the House of Lords and asked 22 written questions. As of December 2022, she had not spoken in a debate since March 2020 and had last voted in April 2022.


PPE Medpro controversy

Further information: Controversies regarding COVID-19 contracts in the United Kingdom

In October 2020 it was revealed that PPE Medpro, a company led by Anthony Page, a business associate of Mone and her husband Doug Barrowman, had been awarded a contract for £122 million to supply personal protective equipment (PPE) to the NHS during the COVID-19 pandemic.[44] Page resigned as secretary for MGM Media, the company that manages and receives payment for Mone's branding and media engagements and on the same day he formed Medpro. In October 2020, a spokeswoman for Mone stated she "has no role or involvement in PPE Medpro", adding: "Mr Barrowman is also not involved in the company PPE Medpro and is not a Director or Shareholder.”

It later emerged that a second contract for £80 million was awarded to Medpro even earlier when the company was just 4 weeks old.


In November 2021, a Freedom of Information request revealed that Mone personally recommended the company to the government through its VIP fast-track lane for firms with political connections and that the company was awarded £200 million in government contracts. This high-priority process was set up in the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic in order to bypass the normal competitive tender process for procurement that was considered urgent. It further emerged in January 2022 that Mone recommended Medpro for a government contract five days before the company had been formed. At the time, Mone's lawyers stated that she "was not connected to PPE Medpro in any capacity" but documents leaked to The Guardian revealed that a director of the company was a long term employee of Mone's husband's company. WhatsApp messages seen by The Guardian appeared to show Mone discussing the size of garments that formed part of a contract. Lawyers for Mone and her husband denied the allegations.


Following a complaint by the Labour peer George Foulkes, the House of Lords commissioner for standards launched an investigation into the relationship between Mone and Medpro in January 2022.[50] On 27 April 2022, Mone's homes in London and on the Isle of Man and associated business addresses were raided by the police, who have launched an investigation into potential fraud.

The National Crime Agency is pursuing a tandem investigation into PPE Medpro.


In November 2022, The Guardian reported that Mone had received £29 million in payments from PPE Medpro to a secret offshore HSBC trust fund, of which she and her adult children were the beneficiaries. Her lawyer had previously said she did not declare PPE Medpro in the House of Lords register of financial interests as "she did not benefit financially and was not connected to PPE Medpro in any capacity."


Mone also lobbied for LGI Diagnostics, a company established as a secret entity of her husband Barrowman's family office, Knox family office.[54] A unnamed source told The Guardian that Mone was "in a class of her own in terms of the sheer aggression of her advocacy" for LGI Diagnostics. On 6 December 2022, Mone's spokesperson said she was taking a leave of absence from the House of Lords with immediate effect "in order to clear her name of the allegations that have been unjustly levelled against her."


Awards and recognition

On 21 November 2002, Paisley University awarded her an honorary doctorate.[55] Mone was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) for her "services to the lingerie industry" in the 2010 New Year Honours.


After consultation with the College of Arms, on 30 September 2015, she was created a life peer as Baroness Mone, of Mayfair in the City of Westminster.[59] She was introduced in the House of Lords on 15 October by fellow Conservative peers Lord Freud and Baroness Morris of Bolton.


Personal life

Mone has appeared on a number of TV programmes, including The Apprentice and 71 Degrees North.


On 26 December 2018 Mone announced her engagement to Scottish businessman Douglas Barrowman. They were married on 29 November 2020.


In December 2021, a wealth manager of Indian heritage accused Mone of sending racist text messages to him after the two were involved in a 2019 yachting incident in Monaco, which resulted in the death of a person. He said that Mone called him "a waste of a man's white skin" via text. A spokesperson for Mone said she was not a racist and "Baroness Mone and her husband have built over 15 schools in Africa in the past three years"; this was followed by a message from her lawyers, who said that Mone could not access her messages and had no "detailed memory of them".

Mone's spokesperson said it was "illogical she would have made such a comment or made it with the slightest racist intent as, at the time, she had no knowledge that the complainant was anything other than white British, as his appearance is 100% white, with a cut-glass English accent."


The allegations of racism were referred to the House of Lords Commissioner for Standards, but commissioners did not investigate the matter as Mone's comments were said in a personal capacity and not in her capacity as a member of the House of Lords.[63] In January 2022, the Metropolitan Police announced they were investigating the incident after receipt of an allegation of a racially aggravated malicious communication.

The yacht, the wedding and £29m: Michelle Mone’s life during the Covid crisis

After recommending PPE Medpro for £203m government contracts, the Tory peer spoke of how business was hard but ‘rewarding’


David Conn

David Conn

Wed 23 Nov 2022 18.08 GMT


In the summer of 2021, when a traumatised Britain was enduring a third wave of Covid infections as it struggled to emerge from the pandemic, the Conservative peer Michelle Mone posted a photograph on Instagram of herself and her husband, Douglas Barrowman, in the Mediterranean. They were on their new luxury yacht, Lady M.


Mone, 51, who attained celebrity status through her bra and lingerie company, Ultimo, and was appointed to the House of Lords by David Cameron in 2015, told her followers: “Today I’m feeling reflective. I feel so grateful to be where I am, in a beautiful part of the world with the people I love the most. It wasn’t easy. There were some real challenges, both emotionally and physically.


“Business isn’t easy. But it is rewarding.”

The social media update about the sun-soaked luxury that “Lady (Michelle) Mone OBE”, as she describes herself on her social feeds, was enjoying on deck prompted an obvious question: during a global health and economic crisis, what business had she and Barrowman found that was so rewarding?


There had been speculation some months earlier that the couple’s good fortune may have had some connection to two large PPE contracts that the government awarded to a newly formed company, PPE Medpro, during Covid’s first deadly wave. The contracts were awarded via the “VIP lane” for companies recommended by Conservative MPs and peers and other politically connected people, but the government did not disclose at that time that PPE Medpro’s “VIP” had been Mone.


On paper, PPE Medpro had apparent links with Mone: the company’s directors, Anthony Page and Voirrey Coole, worked for Barrowman’s Isle of Man Knox Group, and Page had been the registered secretary of Mone’s company MGM Media, which managed her brand.


Asked in late autumn 2020, after these contracts had been awarded, if they were involved with PPE Medpro, Mone and Barrowman had emphatically denied having anything to do with it.


To emphasise the point, Page also issued a press release stating: “PPE Medpro was not awarded the contract due to company or personal connections to the government or Conservative party.”


Through the two years of scrutiny that have followed, the manner of Mone and Barrowman’s responses, almost all issued by lawyers acting on their behalf, has been striking: a series of fierce denials of “involvement” in the company, or the process through which it secured its government contracts, coupled with legal threats.


However the Guardian has chipped away at the edifice of the denials. A two-year investigation establishing the couple’s links to PPE Medpro culminates today with newly leaked documents indicating that Mone and Barrowman secretly received tens of millions of pounds originating from the company’s profits, which were sent to the Isle of Man.


The documents state that Barrowman received at least £65m in PPE Medpro profits, and transferred £29m to an offshore trust that, bank records indicate, benefited his wife and her adult children.


Contacted about the new disclosures, a lawyer for Mone said: “There are a number of reasons why our client cannot comment on these issues and she is under no duty to do so.” A lawyer who represents both Barrowman and PPE Medpro said that an ongoing investigation limited what they were able to say on these matters. He added: “For the time being we are also instructed to say that there is much inaccuracy in the portrayal of the alleged ‘facts’ and a number of them are completely wrong.”


A high-profile wedding and an ugly spat

In the autumn of 2020, months after PPE Medpro had secured the £203m Covid contracts, Mone was tussling with other considerations, including how to hold a wedding in the pandemic. In September 2020 she was forced to cancel a planned ceremony in the 13th-century chapel of St Mary Undercroft, in the Palace of Westminster.


Instead, she switched to the the Isle of Man, where there were few Covid restrictions at the time. Barrowman, her then fiance, has a sprawling U-shaped nine-bedroom home on the island. While the couple were making wedding arrangements from this base, Barrowman seems to have also been focusing on moving profits gained from PPE Medpro around various Isle of Man registered trusts, companies and accounts.


None of this was known then, despite the attention on Mone. Particularly since receiving a peerage in 2015, Mone had become a fixture in the tabloids, which titled her “Baroness Bra”. The wedding in November 2020 provided a level of glamour that was gleefully splashed across pages of papers mostly still concerned with the pandemic. Hello! magazine filled its pages with pictures of the couple’s celebrations, including shots of the bride in her designer wedding dress and Jimmy Choo heels.


After the wedding, Mone took to Instagram to thank “everyone on the Isle of Man for making our day so special”, including an opera singer and five live bands that had played during the weekend.


In December 2020, with the UK still in tier 2 and 3 Covid restrictions, Mone received a mixed public reaction to idyllic photos she posted online of the honeymoon at a five-star resort in the Maldives where, she tweeted, the couple were having “the most fantastic time”.


Just a month later, the Guardian understands, the bank Barrowman used in the Isle of Man, HSBC, was conducting an investigation into the financier’s receipt and distribution of the millions from PPE Medpro’s profits, and – the Guardian understands – decided to drop the couple as customers. HSBC declined to comment.


Publicly, however, all was blissful through the summer of 2021. Mone posted a series of perfectly posed pictures, including ones on the deck of the Lady M, with reflections on her state of contentment. “Decide what makes you happy and just go for it,” she wrote on one.


In June 2021, Mone and Barrowman garnered widespread publicity for a newly announced £18m business venture in Aberdeen, neospace, which provided office space tailored for post-Covid hybrid working. In August, almost a year after the couple are now known to have received a fortune in PPE Medpro profits, the Scottish Sun reported that Mone’s adult children had altogether spent more than £3m buying new properties in Glasgow.


Just weeks after her 50th birthday, however, the cracks started to appear in Mone and Barrowman’s carefully cultivated public image.


An ugly spat a couple of years previously with a former friend of Indian heritage was revealed by the Guardian. Mone was accused of sending him an allegedly racist message, calling him “a waste of a man’s white skin”, after a yacht crash off Monaco. Mone was interviewed under caution earlier this year, although in August the Metropolitan police confirmed that no further action would be taken.


Links to PPE Medpro revealed

The mystery around PPE Medpro was about to be broken too. For nearly 18 months the couple had constantly dismissed, denied or played down any links to the company.


However the Good Law Project, a not-for-profit campaign group, pursued a freedom of information request that led to the information commissioner ordering the government to publish the names of both the companies that had received contracts through the VIP lane and those who had referred them. When it did so, PPE Medpro was on the list, with the name of the VIP who initially referred the company to the government: “Baroness Mone”.


Confronted in November 2021 with the one inescapable fact at that time – that she had recommended the company to her fellow Tory peer Theodore Agnew, then a minister responsible for procurement – Mone’s lawyer said: “Having taken the very simple, solitary and brief step of referring PPE Medpro as a potential supplier to the office of Lord Agnew, our client did not do anything further in respect of PPE Medpro.”


The lawyer also stated that Mone had not declared the company on her Lords register of interests because “she did not benefit financially and was not connected to PPE Medpro in any capacity”.


The details of how Mone and Barrowman were linked to the company came instead from key information and documents provided by sources to the Guardian after Mone’s referral of the company became public.


In early January 2022, the Guardian revealed further details about Mone’s links to the PPE Medpro contracts. Leaked files appeared to show that, despite their constant denials, Mone and Barrowman did appear to have been secretly involved in the company. By then it had also emerged that the gowns supplied under a £122m contract had been rejected after a technical inspection and never used.


A day after the Guardian’s report, seemingly unconcerned by the revelations, Mone told her Twitter followers that she loved putting on make-up even when she had no event to attend. But it was the last time she shared her thoughts with her followers. On Instagram, too, her feed soon went quiet.


Then, in March 2022, the Guardian revealed new details of how Mone’s efforts had helped PPE Medpro secure its place in the VIP lane back in May 2020.


Her first approach to the government was to her fellow Conservative Michael Gove, who was then a Cabinet Office minister. Neither party has responded to questions about the nature of their relationship and how Gove came to be Mone’s first point of contact when offering to supply PPE to the government. She did tweet approvingly about him in 2017, writing: “Brilliant night with my colleagues at @UKHouseofLords Spent some time with @michaelgove I can honestly say,he’s mega switched on&a nice guy.”


Brilliant night with my colleagues at @UKHouseofLords Spent some time with @michaelgove I can honestly say,he's mega switched on&a nice guy

— Lady (Michelle) Mone OBE (@MichelleMone) June 13, 2017


After her approach to Gove in the weeks after the UK’s first lockdown, Mone contacted Agnew by private email on 8 May 2020, copying in Gove. She offered to supply large quantities of PPE face masks, the Guardian revealed, saying they could be sourced through “my team in Hong Kong”.



Agnew passed the offer to civil servants handling “priority” offers from politically connected people. PPE Medpro, the company, was not even incorporated until four days later, on 12 May 2020, but by the end of June, the government had contracted to pay it £203m of public money.


A few weeks after these latest revelations, in late April 2022, Mone made a rare appearance in the House of Lords to vote on the government’s police, crime, sentencing and courts bill. The following day police cars turned up at her London and Isle of Man properties. The raids by the National Crime Agency (NCA), investigating potential fraud relating to PPE Medpro, were reported widely. Mone has not voted in the Lords since.


The latest batch of documents reviewed by the Guardian state that in October 2020, Barrowman transferred £29m originating from PPE Medpro profits to a trust set up on the Isle of Man. Records indicate the trust was set up to benefit Mone and her three children, and that its bank account was opened the same month that she recommended PPE Medpro to Tory ministers.


Barrowman is understood to have told HSBC that his wife had “no involvement” in the business activities of PPE Medpro, and the onward transfer of its profits via his personal bank account had been made “in his personal capacity”.


These details will add significant pressure on the peer, who is facing an investigation by the Lords commissioner for standards into whether she breached the conduct rules by failing to register an interest in the company, and by lobbying for it to be awarded government contracts. That investigation continues. Mone has denied wrongdoing.


The NCA’s investigation into potential fraud by PPE Medpro also continues. So far no one has been arrested or charged. Lawyers for PPE Medpro have declined to comment.


Barrowman declined to answer questions about whether money originating from PPE Medpro profits was used to pay for the Lady M yacht, the new Glasgow properties, the wedding or the honeymoon. A lawyer for Mone and her children said: “We are advised there is no truth in what appears to be entirely speculative ‘guesses’ on your part.”


A year ago Mone’s lawyer responded to a question about whether money derived from PPE Medpro’s deal had funded the yacht. “The inference which you clearly wish to create is that our client has used her position to lobby the government to award lucrative contracts to companies ‘connected’ to her and then spent the proceeds on an expensive yacht … That is not only wholly untrue, but if repeated, is highly actionable as it is grossly defamatory of our client.”


Meanwhile, the UK government is continuing its attempt to recover money from PPE Medpro in relation to the unused gowns through a dispute resolution process. PPE Medpro insists the gowns purchased through the £122m contract passed inspection, and that the company – and, presumably, the beneficiaries of its profits – are entitled to keep the money.

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