UK Crony Capitalism: This is shocking

28 May 2021 — Good Law Project

Government gets a bona fide PPE offer from a would be supplier. The company has sourced the PPE, submitted a bid and passed through the technical checks. They’re close to signing on the dotted line. But at the eleventh hour they get dropped. Instead, Government buys the same thing from someone else. Someone who came in later but with close connections to Cabinet Ministers – and at an eye watering price.

This is a story we have heard, with close variants, again and again. But Government secrecy means we haven’t been able to corroborate it – until now.

The bare facts of what Good Law Project has learned about two contracts awarded to Pharmaceuticals Direct Limited (PDL) are extraordinary. We hold documents evidencing that:

  • Priti Patel and Boris Johnson’s adviser Munira Mirza pushed the case of two middlemen for PDL with Cabinet Office;
  • the first middleman was Samir Jassal. He is a Conservative councillor who has been photographed with Boris Johnson (and May and Cameron) and who has personal links to Priti Patel and a string of other high profile Conservative politicians;
  • the second middleman was Surbjit Shergill. A company he owned went from £200 to almost £10m in value in the year of the pandemic. Documents leaked to Good Law Project suggest he billed PDL over £16m for his services;
  • the first contract, for IIR face masks, was signed only six days after a direct intervention from Priti Patel – and for a price materially above the average price;
  • the second contract, for ‘Meixin 2016V’ FFP3 face masks, was concluded on 7 July – and only after officials from the political hub of PPE procurement, the Cabinet Office, overruled objections from DHSC that it was overpriced by £50m;
  • another bidder had passed technical assurance – and had even been sent a contract – to supply Meixin 2016Vs at the same time and in meaningfully the same quantity. On 2 July they were told Government had already bought enough of that type of mask. Five days later Government spent over £100m buying Meixin 2016Vs from PDL.

Good Law Project has published a long read on how a number of politicians and advisors intervened in PDL’s bid for a lucrative contract. We link to all the key documents. And there is more to come. All involved say they did nothing wrong – and their responses can be found in the long read. We think the evidence we have published speaks for itself.

This story will be published more widely tomorrow but we wanted to make sure those on our mailing list, including you, received it first. If you want to share this breaking story with your friends and family, you can do so below:

We are taking legal action over the award of contracts to PDL. If you are in a position to do so, you can donate here.

Thank you,

Jo Maugham

Director of Good Law Project

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