A Spanish businessman
who acted as a go-between to secure protective garments for NHS staff in the coronavirus pandemic, was paid $28m (£21m) in UK taxpayer cash
A legal dispute playing out in the courts in Miami
has helped shine a light on the amount of money some companies have made supplying the NHS with equipment to protect staff from Covid infection.
Earlier this year, as the coronavirus pandemic was spreading rapidly around the world, Florida-based jewellery designer Michael Saiger
set up a business to supply PPE
to governments. He used his experience of working with factories in China to land what are described as "a number of lucrative contracts" supplying protective gloves and gowns to the NHS
. Mr Saiger
signed up a Spanish businessman, Gabriel Gonzalez Andersson
, to help with "procurement, logistics, due diligence, product sourcing and quality control" of the PPE equipment. In effect, Mr Andersson
was expected to find a manufacturer for deals that had already been done. Mr Andersson
was paid more than $28m (£21m)
for his work on two government contracts to supply the NHS.
In June, Mr Saiger
signed three more agreements to supply the NHS with millions of gloves and surgical gowns. When the UK government paid up, his go-between, Mr Andersson
, would have been in line for a further $20m in consulting fees. But the court documents allege that once the agreements had been signed, Mr Andersson
stopped doing any work for Mr Saiger. It's not clear whether Mr Andersson
received any of the money for this second batch of deals.
This led to PPE deliveries being delayed to NHS
frontline workers, Mr Saiger claims, and the company "scrambling" to fulfil the contracts by other means.
So far the UK's Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has published contracts with Mr Saiger's company, Saiger LLC, totalling more than £200m
. These were awarded without being opened to competition
Alongside the legal dispute in Florida, the deals are set to be challenged in UK courts, by campaign group the Good Law Project. It accuses government ministers of not paying "sufficient regard" to tax-payers' money over a contract with the firm.