The smile that says ‘I bagged £880k deal on PPE gravy train’: How 23-year-old with no relevant experience was among firms who cashed in on government’s ‘shambolic’ £12bn NHS safety equipment bonanza
- Government relaxed procurement rules to allow officials to award contracts
- PPE team of 450 staff handed out more than 6,900 contracts worth £12.3billion
- Officials paid £3.8million into the wrong bank account in one instance
- Sabi Mokeddem, 23, was given £880,000 to supply 55,000 coveralls
Sabia Mokeddem, 23, was handed a contract worth £880,000
For enterprising businesses, it was the chance of a lifetime.
As the coronavirus pandemic swept across Britain, a £12.3billion ‘Wild West’ opportunity emerged for any firms able to provide the NHS with protective equipment.
Companies with no experience supplying PPE won lucrative Government deals. Now, the Daily Mail can reveal the firms behind the ‘shambolic’ scramble for contracts.
Our investigation – distinct from from today’s NAO report – uncovers how blundering officials paid £3.8million into the wrong bank account in one instance and handed an £880,000 contract to a 23-year-old with no relative experience in another.
Last night, Labour health spokesman Justin Madders said the race to bag multi-million pound PPE contracts was ‘like a gold rush in the Wild West.’
In response to the covid pandemic, the Government relaxed procurement regulations to allow officials to award contracts without a competitive tender process.
This saw a government PPE team of more than 450 staff across several departments hand out more than 6,900 contracts worth £12.3billion.
One firm given a lucrative deal was Trade Markets Direct, a dormant company opened by former bookmaker Garry Morrill who had no relevant experience.
One firm given a lucrative deal was Trade Markets Direct, a dormant company opened by former bookmaker Garry Morrill (pictured)
He told the Mail that protective equipment is ‘not my area’ – but he applied for a contract on the Government website as he knows tradesmen in China who export medical supplies. After weeks of going back and forth, the businessman claims the NHS sent £3.8million to the wrong bank account before he had even confirmed the purchase order.
Astonishingly, this was despite Mr Morrill asking to be paid in instalments of £181,000 per delivery of 50,000 face masks as he did not want the ‘responsibility’ of such a vast sum of money in his account.
After being awarded the contract in April, he set up a specific business account which would only release the funds to China when the goods had been delivered.
But he claims the Government paid the lump sum to his bank directly as opposed to his specific business account.
The businessman returned the money and asked for it to be sent to the correct account. The order was then suspended.
‘You can’t just dump money in a bank account’, he said.
Mr Morrill had agreed to sell M3820 face masks for £3.65 per unit at a time when he claims the NHS was paying £5.
Sabia, a self-confessed party girl, had no experience in supplying medical equipment when she was awarded the contract
Had the deal gone through, he said he would only have made around £5,000 in commission, with the rest of the money going to the manufacturers.Instead, he claims he lost three months of his life trying to contend with the ‘shambolic’ procurement process.
‘It was an absolute nightmare. I wouldn’t trust them to make me a cup of tea’, he said.
Another firm that landed a lucrative contract was Euthenia Investments, run by 23-year-old Sabia Mokeddem, who had set up her company seven months earlier. Despite having no experience in supplying medical equipment, the investor from Lyon, France, was given £880,000 to supply 55,000 coveralls.
The self-confessed party girl was paid almost half a million pounds upfront, although she said her cut of the deal was just ‘pocket money’.
She told the Mail she acted as a go-between for a wholesaler in Hong Kong and has since completed delivery of all the coveralls, priced at £16 each. Miss Mokkedem said the coveralls cost £11 before the pandemic – but they charged £16 as market demand and rising cargo costs pushed up prices.
Defending the Government’s procurement drive, she said the checks had been stringent and she was asked to provide a range of documents including test reports for the product and details on the factories used.
But the financial trader, who lives in central London, appeared to ridicule the Government’s strategy to fight the pandemic.
Labour health spokesman Justin Madders said the race to bag multi-million pound PPE contracts was ‘like a gold rush in the Wild West’
In a brazen confession, she revealed she attended raves with over 200 people during the first national lockdown.
She told the Mail: ‘Nothing has changed for me. I’ve been doing my life. I’ve been to parties and raves. That was my way of saying you can’t ask people to stay at home.’ Meanwhile, another business, MGP Advisory, was just weeks away from being struck off when it was given a £825,000 contract to supply PPE.
Added to this, its founder Michael Pearce – a fashion consultant who brought UGG Boots to the UK –had been made bankrupt three months earlier.
He and his partner, jewellery designer Fiona Knapp, were once a society power couple living in a grade II-listed Notting Hill apartment and had relaunched the iconic 1960s brand Biba together.
Mr Pearce, who later moved to a mansion in Surrey with a swimming pool and tennis court, set up MGP Advisory two years ago. Records show that its accounts were overdue and in February notice was given for the third time in two years that the company was going to be struck off.
However, just two days after MGP was given the six-figure deal the action was cancelled.
Mr Pearce said his bankruptcy was ‘being annulled’ when contacted, but declined to comment further. Last night Labour MP Mr Madders said: ‘Companies saw this as an opportunity to make a quick buck. Businesses with little experience or no track record in medical supplies have been handed enormous contracts.
‘The NAO report has highlighted the lack of due diligence, transparency and accountability in these processes and raises serious questions about the probity of the entire process.
‘It is imperative now that Parliament has the opportunity to fully scrutinise and hold ministers accountable for what appears to be an indefensible situation.’
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