Mone Facing Questions Over Texts and PPE Contracts

One of the island’s most famous faces has had a bit rough time this week, with the Guardian, and others, twice running stories about Baroness Michell Mone and her husband Doug Barrowman.

The businesswoman and Tory peer established the fashion brand MJM Limited before selling it in 2014. Mr Barrowman owns the Knox Group, which is based in Douglas.

During this week, it has been reported, that Baroness Mone is being investigated by the Met Police over allegations she sent a racist text to a man of Indian heritage and that she and her husband Douglas Barrowman were involved in a PPE business awarded more than £200m in government contracts after she referred it to the UK’s Cabinet Office. 

Texts

Beginning with the texts, it has been reported in the UK’s media that Richard Lynton-Jones, complained to the police last summer that during a disagreement following a fatal yacht collision in 2019, Lady Mone told him in a WhatsApp message he was ‘a waste of a man’s white skin’.

The Guardian has said: ‘Lynton-Jones gave a statement to the police in October, providing screenshots of the messages. He is understood to have told the police in his statement that he believed Mone racially attacked him by using those words in the message, that he found it grossly offensive and felt harassed, alarmed and distressed by it.’

The Met confirmed they were investigating and said: ‘In June 2021 police received an allegation of a racially aggravated malicious communication in relation to information posted on a messaging app. Police spoke to the complainant and advised that for the investigation to progress a statement would need to be taken; for this to be admissible in any future court proceedings, this would need to be done in person.

‘In October, the complainant gave a statement to police and the investigation continues. A 50-year-old woman has been invited to attend for an interview under caution at a future date.’

Baroness Mone has strenuously denied this allegation and her lawyers have questioned the authenticity of the messages. In a statement, also the Guardian, her lawyers said she had ‘no access’ to the messages and had no ‘detailed memory of them’. 

They added: ‘She is not prepared to comment on the messages unless and until their authenticity has been confirmed but Baroness Mone, in any event, very strongly denies that she is a racist, a sexist or that she has a lack of respect for those persons genuinely suffering with mental health difficulties.’

She herself has also posted on Instagram to deny the allegations: 

Contracts

As if the week hadn’t been bad enough for Baroness Mone and Mr Barrowman, the Guardian is also alleging that the couple were secretly involved in a PPE business that was awarded more than £200m in government contracts after she referred it to the Cabinet Office.

Again The Guardian has reported: ‘Barrowman, an Isle of Man-based financier, may have played a central role in the business deal that enabled PPE Medpro to sell millions of masks and surgical gowns to the government at the start of the pandemic, documents suggest. One person closely involved in PPE Medpro claimed Barrowman was “part of the financial consortium that backed” the company and was even involved in initial conversations with the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC).’

The newspaper says it has seen documents that suggest Mr Barrowman and Baroness Mone were informed of specific commercial arrangements about PPE Medpro’s supplies. It said that Baroness Mone ‘appears to have sent messages to an individual in PPE Medpro’s supply chain about the contract to supply gowns’.

The company, which was awarded UK gov contracts in May and June 2020, was only set up in the weeks before these were awarded.  The Guardian said that PPE Medpro has ‘always refused to identify what it described as the ‘consortium of successful entrepreneurs that comprise, have financed and backed” the company’. But, it was eventually revealed under an FoI that it was Baroness Mone who referred the company to the UK government. 

Her lawyers had previously said she ‘was not connected to PPE Medpro in any capacity’ and ‘never had any role or function in PPE Medpro, nor in the process by which contracts were awarded’.

The Guardian added: ‘Once it had become public that she had recommended PPE Medpro to the Cabinet Office, Mone’s lawyers said that after the referral – which they described as a “very simple, solitary and brief step” – she “did not do anything further in respect of PPE Medpro”.

‘Contacted about the Guardian’s new findings, Mone’s lawyers said its reporting was “grounded entirely on supposition and speculation and not based on accuracy” and declined to provide direct responses to a series of detailed questions. “You also appear to misunderstand our client’s responsibilities to you,” they said. “She is under no obligation to say anything to you”.’

Mr Barrowman had also said that he was ‘not personally involved in working for PPEM in relation to PPE contracts’. 

The Leak

However, the documents which the Guardian is reporting it has seen, shows that ‘the UK-registered PPE Medpro Ltd, which was incorporated on 12 May 2020, was in effect a subsidiary of another company that had been created in the Isle of Man the previous day, using the same name’.

The Guardian said: ‘A director of both the Isle of Man and UK versions of PPE Medpro was Anthony Page. A longtime employee in Barrowman’s Isle of Man-based financial services firm, the Knox Group, Page also runs Barrowman’s family office. During the same week that PPE Medpro was formed, it entered into a crucial business deal with the London-based importing company Loudwater Trade and Finance Ltd, which committed to source gowns and masks from factories in China.

‘The contracts were signed by Page, the authorised signatory for PPE Medpro. However, documents seen by the Guardian appear to show Barrowman was personally involved in setting up PPE Medpro’s deal with Loudwater’s director, Maurice Stimler, as well as related business matters.’

The paper said it has also seen WhatsApp messages which, it says, shows Baroness Mone discussing sizes for the UK’s PPE orders. It adds: ‘The reply apparently sent by Mone states: “We are just about to take off in the jet. The sizes are in the order. We are waiting for the official PO, this should come in today.” Moments later, she appears to add: “They tell you not to start until you have this PO”.

‘Asked about the messages, Mone’s lawyers said she could not be expected to comment on “unknown and unattributable WhatsApp messages allegedly sent 19 months ago”. They added: “We have no idea – and neither does our client – of the content of the WhatsApp messages to which you refer, the recipients, the context and perhaps most important the provenance of them”.’

Lawyers for Barrowman said the Guardian’s reporting amounted to ‘clutching at straws’ and was ‘largely incorrect’. They added: ‘Our client’s desire not to reveal private or confidential information should not be taken as an assumption that any of your assertions or conclusions are correct or unchallenged.’

Links

You can read both of the Guardian’s stories in full below:

https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2022/jan/06/met-investigating-tory-peer-michelle-mone-over-racist-message

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/jan/06/tory-peer-michelle-mone-involved-ppe-medpro-government-contracts

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