A Spanish businessman was paid more than $ 28 million (£ 21 million) in taxpayer money to act as an intermediary in the sale of personal protective equipment to the British government by a Florida-based jewelry designer, according to US court documents.
The document, filed in Miami, states that Gabriel González Andersson stands to get another $ 21.3 million in consulting fees, also to be borne by British taxpayers, for three more PPE contracts between the Saiger company and the government. Saiger was founded this year by Michael Saiger, owner of the Miansai jewelry company, in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
In May, Saiger, whose jewelery is sold in more than 35 countries, to the Council of Fashion Designers of America that Miansai’s business had slowed down. She said: “I spend my days providing PPE kits to charities, shelters and local authorities.”
According to court documents, by leveraging contacts in China, the new Saiger company “was able to secure a number of lucrative contracts with the British government”. It said Andersson “did very well under this arrangement, and for his assistance in the completion of two contracts, was paid over $ 28 million”.
The US court case concerns a dispute between Saiger and Andersson over three further contracts agreed in June to supply millions of gloves and dresses to Britain, for which Andersson will be paid an additional $ 21.3 million.
The contract signed between Saiger and Andersson stipulates that he will provide services including “sourcing manufacturers, due diligence and coordinating logistics”.
The details raise new concerns about a large amount of money the British government has paid during the coronavirus crisis to private companies. PPE contract signed with other companies, including one worth £ 252m signed in April with Ayanda Capital, which describes itself as a specialist in currency trading and offshore property, and 11 with Pestfix, particularly the pest control business.
Separately, in the UK, the Good Law Project and EveryDoctor launched legal proceedings on Tuesday against the Department Health and Social Care (DHSC) for awarding a PPE contract totaling more than £ 250 million to Saiger.
One of the contracts, signed on June 4 for £ 70.5 million in dresses (of which $ 16 million will be awarded to Andersson according to US documents) is for the supply of 10.2 million dresses, roughly the number of dresses used by the UK’s NHS during the coronavirus pandemic, but on offer without any ads or a competitive tender process, the plaintiffs said. They also alleged that the government paid Saiger more for the dress under this contract, relative to the prevailing market price.
Jolyon Maugham QC, director of the Good Law Project, said: “Finally we can all see – in plain black and white – an incredible amount flowing from the public treasury to private pockets. Who can blame individuals for joining the queue if the government is handing out free money? But you and I – and our children – will have to pay higher taxes because of the government’s inability to give the last generation of wealth big enough to obscure foreign businessmen.
“We consider the awarding of this contract, like many other contracts that have been carried out by the government, to violate the law. If the answers from the government are not good enough, and we hope they are not, we will launch a process. “
Dr Julia Patterson, from the EveryDoctor campaign group, said: “It’s heartbreaking NHS staff to see this mismanagement of public funds exposed. “
The plaintiffs said contract notification was not published until five months after the contract was awarded, breaking a law requiring the government to provide details within 30 days. The measures are designed to reduce the risk of fraud and increase the value of money by allowing proper oversight of how taxpayers’ cash is spent.
A DHSC spokesman said: “Proper due diligence is being carried out on all government contracts, and we are taking these checks very seriously.”
Andersson’s lawyer, Jonathan Morton, declined to comment on the US proceedings when contacted by the Guardian.