A SPANISH businessman was handed £21million of UK taxpayers’ money to help supply personal protective equipment (PPE) to the NHS at the height of the coronavirus crisis.
Gabriel González Andersson was paid to assist an American jeweller who won contracts with the UK government worth about £250 million.
But Andersson and designer Saiger, neither of whom had previous experience of supplying PPE, have come to blows after the Madrid executive ditched the venture shortly after being paid.
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US jeweller Saiger said the abrupt exit of his former pal and business consultant meant he was ‘left to scramble’ to fulfil the deal for the NHS according to court papers filed in Florida in a legal dispute between the two men.
Andersson’s decision to ditch Saiger last minute meant PPE supplies to frontline health workers in the UK were delayed for months, but the businessman still managed to pocket millions in the deal.
The revelation came as a report by UK government auditors cast doubt over the legitimacy of the PPE procurement plans agreed by ministers.
The National Audit Office (NAO), the parliamentary public spending watchdog found that in the rush to secure PPE, £18 billion of public money was awarded in more than 8,600 contracts by the end of July, with 86% awarded by the health department and its national bodies.
They found that suppliers with political contacts were put in a ‘high-priority’ lane and were ten times more likely to get contracts.
Some of the deals were never advertised or put out to tender and instead were secured through personal contacts with the government, it is alleged.
Andersson was paid £21 million for his help in fulfilling two government PPE contracts signed in May. He then stood to make another £15million from three further deals struck between Saiger’s company, Saiger LLC, and the Department of Health and Social Care, involving a million boxes of ‘Titan nitrile gloves’, three million boxes of ‘Blue Sail nitrile gloves’ and 10.2 million surgical gowns.
One of these contract, a £70.5 million deal to supply 10.2 million surgical gowns, is to be challenged in a legal action brought by the campaigning group Good Law Project (GLP) who say the agreement was negotiated well above normal market rates.
The deal, awarded without any competitive tender process in June, resulted in the taxpayer shelling out for the gowns at nearly 50 per cent more than the average market price at the time.
The GLP is asking whether ministers paid ‘sufficient regard’ to taxpayers’ money, highlighting concerns that the price of nearly £7 a gown exceeded the average of £4.60 from similar suppliers at that time.
But ministers have refused to apologise for the payments with business secretary Alok Sharma has claimed that ‘checks were done’.
The Department of Health and Social Care said: “Proper due diligence is carried out for all government contracts and we take these checks extremely seriously.”
Andersson was approached by Saiger, a former male model, to work as a consultant and assist with ‘procurement, logistics, due diligence, product sourcing and quality control’, according to court papers.
The middle-aged businessman, who lives in the swanky La Moraleja suburb of Madrid formerly home to the Beckhams, is allegedly the director of seven Spanish companies but has no background in PPE supplies.
He instead is understood to run an advertising firm and two marketing firm but only one of his businesses, ProSales, has a website.
Saiger, a long term friend of Andersson alleges in court papers that his Spanish pal abruptly ‘stopped performing any of the required services’ and is suing Andersson for breach of services and fraud for breaking the agreement that saw the Spaniard earn over £20million.
Saiger himself pivoted from a successful jewellery range, worn by stars such as Zac Efron and Miley Cyrus and sold across 35 countries, to fulfil orders of PPE in May.
A spokesman for Saiger LLC said that Mr Saiger ‘has 15 years’ specialist experience in the production and distribution of high-quality goods sourced at best value from reputable factories in Asia\. He added: ‘At the height of the pandemic . . . we delivered for Britain, on time and at value.’
Andersson is yet to speak out about the allegations.