It has emerged that a Spanish businessman who worked to secure protective equipment for NHS staff in the coronavirus pandemic was paid $28m (£21m) in UK taxpayer cash to act as a go-between.
UNN’s Oliver Down has learnt, from documents filed in a US court, that the consultant in question had been in line for a further $20m of UK public funds. Unsurprisingly, the US legal papers also reveal the American supplier described the deal for the PPE, procured by the consultant, as “lucrative”.
This incident occurred earlier this year when the Florida-based jewellery designer Michael Saiger set up a business to supply PPE to governments at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the court papers, Mr Saiger then signed up a Spanish businessman called Gabriel Gonzalez Andersson to help with “procurement, logistics, due diligence, product sourcing and quality control” of the PPE equipment.
Following this Mr Andersson was then paid more than $28m (£21m) for his work on two government contracts to supply the NHS. In addition to this, In June Mr Saiger signed three more agreements to supply the NHS with millions of gloves and surgical gowns. Having already received his first payment the court documents then allege that Mr Andersson stopped doing any work for Mr Saiger. Oliver Down is unsure on whether Mr Andersson received any of the money for this second batch of deals with the NHS.
To date the UK’s Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has published contracts with Mr Saiger’s company, Saiger LLC, costed at more than £200m. These contracts were never put out to tender.
The campaign group, the Good Law Project has accused government ministers of not paying “sufficient regard” to tax-payers’ money regarding this contract. They also say: “We do not understand why, as late as June, government was still making direct awards of contracts sufficiently lucrative as to enable these sorts of profits to be made”.