Michelle Mone admits involvement with ‘VIP lane’ PPE
Exclusive: Tory peer and husband, Douglas Barrowman,
had repeatedly denied roles in firm given £200m government Covid contracts
Mon 6 Nov
2023 05.00 EST
Conservative peer Michelle Mone has acknowledged for the first time that she
was involved with a company that was awarded government PPE contracts worth
£200m during the Covid pandemic.
husband, Douglas Barrowman, has also acknowledged for the first time that he
was involved in the company, PPE Medpro.
representative of Barrowman told the Guardian that the Isle of Man-based
businessman was an investor in PPE Medpro, and chaired and led the operation to
supply personal protective equipment.
admissions raise questions about years of denials from the couple. Until now,
Mone and Barrowman have consistently and emphatically denied to the Guardian,
via lawyers, that they were involved in the company.
2020, Mone’s lawyer asserted that “Baroness Mone is not connected in any way
with PPE Medpro”. Barrowman’s lawyers repeatedly denied that he was an investor
in the company or a consortium supporting it, and said he “never had any role
or function in PPE Medpro”.
2020, a lawyer instructed by Mone and Barrowman said “any suggestion of an
association” between the Tory peer and PPE Medpro would be “inaccurate”,
“misleading” and “defamatory”.
February 2022, Mone’s lawyer wrote: “You [the Guardian] have now been placed on
notice on numerous occasions of our client’s position in relation to PPE
Medpro. She has no involvement in the business … She has never had any role or
function in PPE Medpro, nor in the process by which contracts were awarded to
on, a representative for the couple, who said he had Mone and Barrowman’s
permission to respond to questions on their behalf, has made a statement that
departs significantly from those denials.
representative, who is also a spokesperson for PPE Medpro, made the admissions
in a response to questions from the Guardian.
representative said: “The UK government was fully aware of Baroness Mone’s
involvement; like many other peers and MPs on the high priority lane, she acted
as an intermediary/liaison between PPE Medpro and the Cabinet Office/Department
of Health and Social Care.”
representative added that Barrowman, who runs the Knox Group, a tax and wealth
advisory firm in the Isle of Man, “was the chairman and leader of the PPE
Medpro consortium that supplied the UK government”.
representative said the “consortium” was a partnership between PPE Medpro and
two other companies that were involved in sourcing the PPE: Loudwater Trade and
Finance, based in London, and Eric Beare Associates, a Hong Kong company.
provided half the money required upfront through his “family office”, a part of
the Knox firm that the Guardian understands is ultimately controlled by
Barrowman and manages his private wealth.
50% was provided by the Family Office of Doug Barrowman,” the representative
said. The Guardian has previously revealed that PPE Medpro was listed as an
entity of Barrowman’s family office in a Knox document.
Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) granted PPE Medpro two contracts in
May and June 2020, near the start of the pandemic, to supply millions of face
masks and sterile surgical gowns, for a total of £203m.
contracts were processed through the DHSC’s “VIP” high priority lane, which
fast-tracked offers of PPE from companies with connections to the Conservative
party or government.
contracts were made public later that year, Mone and Barrowman issued repeated
denials of their involvement in the company.
Guardian then revealed in a series of reports that Mone and Barrowman were
involved with the company, and that Mone had made the first approach, to the
then Cabinet Office ministers Michael Gove and Theodore Agnew, telling them she
could source PPE through “my team in Hong Kong”.
November the Guardian reported that leaked HSBC bank documents indicated
Barrowman was paid at least £65m from PPE Medpro’s profits, then transferred
£29m into a trust for Mone and her three adult children.
lawyer said at the time there were “a number of reasons why our client cannot
comment on these issues”; Barrowman’s lawyer said a continuing investigation
limited what his client could say, but added that “there is much inaccuracy in
the portrayal of the alleged ‘facts’ and a number of them are completely
wrong”. Mone and Barrowman still did not acknowledge they were involved in the
response to the Guardian’s latest questions, the representative of Mone and
Barrowman said they had informed the government that they were involved from
Barrowman and his wife, Baroness Mone, made a full written disclosure of their
involvement to the Cabinet Office prior to the award of the PPE contracts,” he
said. “The UK government was fully aware of Mr Barrowman’s role and that his
group would make a commercial profit.”
Guardian asked their representative if they would now provide further details
about the extent of their roles, whether they now accepted they received the
sums the Guardian had reported from PPE Medpro profits, and why they had
persistently denied being involved. The spokesperson declined to provide
any further information.