Watchdog launches urgent probe into Spanish middleman who was ‘paid £21MILLION of taxpayers’ cash’ to set up PPE deal between the NHS and Florida-based jewellery designer
- It is claimed Gabriel Gonzalez Andersson was paid £21million in taxpayers’ cash
- He was working for Michael Saiger, 31, who set up a business providing PPE
- Ministers in the UK handed Mr Saiger’s firm ‘a number of lucrative contracts’
- Mr Andersson drafted in to help with ‘procurement, logistics, product sourcing and quality control’ of PPE
Britain’s spending watchdog will probe a deal where a Spanish businessman who served as a middleman to secure PPE for the NHS was paid an astonishing £21million in UK taxpayers’ cash.
The consultant had been in line for another £15million of public funding, US court documents claim.
Gabriel Gonzalez Andersson, from Madrid, was drafted in to help with ‘procurement, logistics, product sourcing and quality control’ of the life-saving equipment.
The court documents described him as having done ‘very well under this arrangement’ – at one point being in line for more than £35million, they claim.
The National Audit Office said today it will launch an urgent investigation into the contract but Business Secretary Alok Sharma has insisted that the proper ‘checks were done’.
Gabriel Gonzalez Andersson (pictured) from Madrid, found manufacturers who could quickly provide millions of items of PPE for deals already agreed for Mr Saiger
Florida-based jewellery designer Michael Saiger (pictured with Rachael Russell) set up a PPE business during the coronavirus crisis. It is claimed the consultant he used was handed £21million of taxpayers’ cash
Michael Saiger and his girlfriend Rachael pictured on a yacht off the Italian coast
He was working for Florida-based jewellery designer Michael Saiger, 31, who set up a business providing protective garments to governments across the world earlier this year.
Mr Saiger claimed his previous encounters with factories in China left him well-equipped to fulfil orders. As such, UK ministers handed his firm ‘a number of lucrative contracts’ worth £200million providing gloves and gowns to NHS staff.
Jewellery designer Michael Saiger set up a PPE business during the covid crisis – and a middleman he used was handed £21million of taxpayers’ cash
Mr Andersson’s job was to find manufacturers who could quickly provide millions of items of PPE for deals already agreed for Mr Saiger.
And it is claimed the Spaniard was paid more than $28million (£21million) for work on two NHS contracts, before his boss signed three more agreements in June. But their relationship later broke down, leading to a court fight in Miami in which the eye-watering sums involved have been laid bare.
Mr Saiger is now suing Mr Andersson for breach of contract and fraud in the inducement.
He accuses Mr Andersson of ‘failing to perform any and all of his duties’ for the three more recent deals. After fulfilling the contract, Mr Andersson would have been eligible for another $20million (£15million) in fees.
But the court documents state Mr Andersson ‘failed or refused to discharge contractual responsibilities’ to Mr Saiger – and should not receive a penny more. This is contested by Mr Andersson, the defendant, who feels he is entitled to the money.
The documents read: ‘Mr Andersson has not engaged in the procurement, logistics, product sourcing and quality control of the PPE equipment at the centre of each of the Agreements, as promised, and thus has breached each of the Agreements.’
His alleged departure left Mr Saiger’s firm ‘scrambling’ to fulfil contracts to deliver PPE to frontline workers.
The dispute has given an insight into the amount of money some companies have made supplying the NHS with protective gear.
The Department of Health and Social Care recently published more than £200million of contracts with Mr Saiger’s company – Saiger LLC. All the contracts awarded to the jewellery designer were awarded without being open to bidding by competitors thanks to an EU rule allowing rapid procurement during emergencies.
The largest deal totalled £103.1million. The three deals signed in June, which Mr Saiger accuses Mr Andersson of reneging on, focused on the procurement of ‘Titan gloves’, ‘Blue Sail gloves’ and ‘PureMed gowns’.
Concern has been raised around rushed Government PPE contracts. Spending a budget of £13.8billion, it has given contracts to thousands of firms. Others to receive big contracts include a six-week-old company, a small luxury packaging firm and a business based in an offshore tax haven.
The deals are set to face a legal challenge in UK courts by campaigners The Good Law Project.The group, which claims to ‘use the law to protect the interests of the public’, accuses ministers of not paying ‘sufficient regard’ to taxpayers’ money.
‘We do not understand why, as late as June, the Government was still making direct awards of contracts sufficiently lucrative as to enable these sorts of profits to be made,’ a spokesman said. ‘The real criticism that is to be made here is of the huge profits that government allows to be generated.’
Before providing lifesaving equipment to the NHS, Michael Andrew Saiger was known as the owner and founder of fashion accessory brand Miansai. The brand offers ‘something any guy could wear’.
The contracts came at the time where the NHS feared it would run out of lifesaving clothing such as masks and gowns
A spokesman for Mr Saiger said: ‘Our CEO has 15 years’ specialist experience in the production and distribution of high-quality goods sourced at best value from reputable factories in Asia.
‘We have an extensive network of manufacturing and distribution contacts in Asia and we are an agile, nimble firm able to move rapidly.
‘These attributes mean that few other suppliers can match us on speed, quality or value to the taxpayer, and we have used this combination to great effect for the benefit of the UK.
‘At the height of the pandemic, and at a time when the NHS was in need of high-quality PPE that met the required safety standards, we delivered for Britain, on time and at value.
‘We are exceptionally proud to have played our part in providing frontline workers in the UK, including nurses, doctors and hospital staff, with the millions of pieces of PPE they need to stay safe and to save lives.
‘At no time have we ever used any ‘middlemen’. We have few full-time staff so for large projects we bring in short-term contractors for additional expertise and capacity, allowing us to deliver what is needed.’
A Department of Health spokesman said: ‘We have been working tirelessly to deliver PPE, delivering more than 4.9billion items to the frontline so far.
‘Almost 32billion 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.’
Mr Andersson has been approached for comment.
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