Police have raided the home of Tory peer Michelle Mone as part of a probe into multi-million pound PPE deals relating to a company that she has links to.
An investigation has been launched by the National Crime Agency ( NCA ) into the deals by PPE Medpro – a company set up by a business associate of Baroness Mone.
Her £11m London home, owned by an offshore company linked to her husband’s Isle of Man business, is among a number of properties that NCA officers have raided this week.
It is understood a special unit within the NCA have been looking into the allegations for a year, The Mirror reports.
PPE Medpro won more than £200m in Covid contracts from the Department for Health in 2020 after Baroness Mone referred the firm to the Cabinet Office via the so-called “VIP lane”.
Warrants were executed at four addresses on the Isle of Man on Wednesday, including the headquarters in Douglas of the Knox Group of companies, which was founded and is chaired by Mone’s businessman husband Doug Barrowman.
No arrests were made during simultaneous raids in London and the Isle of Man but officers seized documents and electronic devices.
The Isle of Man police confirmed that it took part in co-ordinated raids on Wednesday.
A spokesperson said: “The Isle of Man Constabulary, in support of an ongoing NCA investigation, executed search warrants at four addresses in the Isle of Man. No arrests were made.”
An NCA spokesperson said: “The NCA does not routinely confirm or deny the existence of investigations or the names of those who may or may not be under investigation.”
But it is believed that the investigation is being carried out by a team of officers with expertise in cross-border and financial crime.
But the NCA has no jurisdiction on the Isle of Man, which is a self-governing British Crown dependency and well-known tax haven.
The Department for Health is in dispute with PPE Medpro over millions of surgical gowns which it bought for £122m in 2020.
In total, PPE Medpro won more than £200m in PPE contracts at the start of the pandemic. It is not known which PPE Medpro deal or deals the NCA is investigating.
PPE Medpro was set up in May 2020, weeks before it secured the first of two PPE contracts for surgical masks and gowns worth £203m.
When asked questions about the link at the time, Baroness Mone’s office responded with this quote: “Well done to PPE Medpro in supplying vital equipment to the NHS to fight this dreadful virus!”
But her spokesperson added: “Further to that, Baroness Mone has no comment as she has no role or involvement in PPE Medpro.”
Once it became public last year that she had referred PPE Medpro to the Cabinet Office using the “VIP lane”, Baroness Mone admitted she made the “very simple, solitary and brief step” but insisted “did not do anything further in respect of PPE Medpro”.
But in leaked WhatsApp messages Mone was allegedly asked what size of gowns were required under the Department of Health deal and replied: “We are just about to take off in the jet. The sizes are in the order. We are waiting for the official PO [purchase order]this should come in today.”
Mone’s lawyers said she could not be expected to comment on “unknown and unattributable WhatsApp messages allegedly sent 19 months ago”.
Sources told the Guardian newspaper that Barrowman, an offshore entrepreneur on the Isle of Man, was “part of the financial consortium that backed” PPE Medpro. But his lawyers said the allegations were “largely incorrect”.
The House of Lords commissioner for standards launched into Baroness Mone in January following a complaint by the Labor peer George Foulkes.
Foulkes asked the commissioners to investigate whether Mone may have breached the Lords code of conduct by failing to declare an interest in the company, and by lobbying for it to be awarded government contracts.
Under the House of Lords code of conduct, peers are required to follow seven principles of standards in public life, integrity and openness.
The code states: “They should not act or make decisions in order to gain financial or other material benefits for themselves, their family, or their friends. They must declare and resolve any interests and relationships.”
Peers must “submit themselves to scrutiny” and “be truthful”.
Baroness Mone’s “private office” told the Mirror by email: “Baroness Mone declared her interests and has done nothing wrong whatsoever.”
The government has come under fire for handing out billions of pounds-worth of contracts without proper scrutiny and for running a “VIP lane” for PPE suppliers which was ruled illegal earlier this year.
Just over 55% of more than 38 billion items of PPE bought at a cost of over £12 billion have gone to frontline staff.
The National Audit Office found that 1.5 billion PPE items have passed their expiration date while another 3.6 billion items are being stored because they are unsuitable for frontline use.
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George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.