Saturday, 28 Nov 2020

Spanish middleman paid £21M in taxpayers' cash in NHS PPE deal

Spanish businessman was paid £21MILLION in taxpayers’ cash to act as middleman for Florida-based jewellery designer selling PPE to the NHS, court documents show

  • Gabriel Gonzalez Andersson did ‘very well’ out of deal with Michael Saiger 
  • Jewellery designer Mr Saiger won £200m of NHS contracts for new PPE
  • He approached  Mr Gonzalez Andersson to help find manufacturer in China 
  • Florida court told Mr Gonzalez Andersson failed to help get masks and gowns
  • Government accused of agreeing uncompetitive contracts during Covid crisis

Jewellery designer Michael Saiger set up a PPE business during the covid crisis – and a middleman he used was handed £21million of taxpayers’ cash

A Spanish businessman was paid £21million of taxpayers’ cash after he acted as a middleman for a Florida-based jewellery designer who turned to selling PPE to the NHS, court papers revealed today.

Gabriel Gonzalez Andersson did ‘very well under this arrangement’ with Michael Saiger who won Government contracts worth £197million as British ministers scrambled to buy masks and gowns during the first national lockdown.

The extraordinary PPE deals done by the UK Government have been laid bare in court proceedings between Mr Saiger and Mr Andersson in Miami. 

Jewellery designer Michael Saiger, whose Miansai brand has stores in New York, Los Angeles and Malibu, decided to set up a new PPE business as coronavirus spread across the globe in early 2020. 

Court documents claim Mr Saiger ‘had significant experience in working with manufacturers and distributors in China’ and his links with several Chinese factories led to the British Government agreeing ‘a number of lucrative contracts’ with him for gloves and gowns. 

It is not known how much money Mr Saiger made from the NHS contracts totalling £197million – but he has failed to provide all the masks, gloves and gowns he promised.

Mr Andersson was paid more than £21million for his work on two NHS contracts. He was in line for another £15million from three more contracts he is accused of not fulfilling.

The contracts came at the time where the NHS feared it would run out of lifesaving clothing such as masks and gowns

In March Mr Saiger approached Mr Gonzalez Andersson and his company ‘Glezco’ to provide ‘services’ to facilitate these PPE deals with the Department of Health and help him find a manufacturer in China.

The court documents allege Mr Andersson did ‘very well under this arrangement, and for his assistance in the completion of two contracts, was paid more than $28 million (£21.1m)’. 

The new business partners then agreed to fulfill another three contracts with the NHS for 1million boxes of Titan nitrile gloves, 3million boxes of Blue Sail nitrile gloves and 10.2 million surgical gowns. 

The court documents say: ‘Mr Saiger understood Mr Andersson to be an experienced operator of large-scale distribution projects, similar to the types of projects Saiger LLC was undertaking’.

And Mr Gonzalez Andersson was to provide ‘services to Saiger LLC, which includes ‘sourcing the manufacturer, due diligence and coordinating logistics’, the papers say.

But Mr Saiger’s lawyers claim he failed to secure the items from China, leaving him unable to supply the PPE for the NHS.

They say: ‘Unfortunately, and unacceptably, Defendants’ failure to perform under the contracts caused business interruptions that delayed the delivery of PPE to health care providers and first responders in the United Kingdom during the COVID-19 pandemic’.  

The former business partners look set to clash in a Florida court over the failure.

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman said: ‘We have been working tirelessly to deliver PPE, delivering more than 4.9 billion items to the frontline so far. Almost 32 billion items have been ordered to provide a continuous supply, which will meet the future needs of health and social care staff.

‘Proper due diligence is carried out for all government contracts and we take these checks extremely seriously.’

It is not known how much money Mr Saiger made from the NHS contracts totalling £197 million.

Getting hold of lifesaving clothing for frontline staff became ‘hand to mouth’ due to hold-ups in China and a lack of PPE in storage for the NHS at the start of the coronavirus crisis.

 The British Government began flying in crates of the equipment daily from Shanghai – but some boxes were being offloaded by Chinese officials before take-off.

Other crates were arriving in the UK with the wrong labels so that rather than containing the much-needed gowns which are currently in short supply, they are filled with masks.

In May 400,000 gowns ordered by the government from Turkey were sitting in a warehouse near Heathrow Airport after inspectors discovered they were ‘useless’ and fell short of UK standards.

The shipment was announced by Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick on April 18 to much fanfare, with the minister claiming that 84 tonnes of PPE would arrive from Turkey the next day to aid NHS staff in the fight against coronavirus.

However, an RAF plane that flew to collect the gowns was then forced to wait at a Turkish airport for several days after it was discovered the government forgot to check whether the supplier had an export license.

Such was the chaos that up stepped Mail Force, a charity set up by the Daily Mail in near-record time and backed by the amazing generosity of its readers. 

The charity went on to raise more than £11million and to provide millions of pieces of crucial equipment across the UK – from masks to testing machinery for hospitals and care homes. 

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