Michelle Mone

The Guardian

On November 23, 2022, the Guardian revealed that the Conservative peer Michelle Mone had secretly received tens of millions of pounds from the profits of PPE Medpro, a business that had secured lucrative government contracts after she helped it win a place in the controversial “VIP lane”. The funds had been transferred to Mone and her children via a secret offshore trust. It was a major exclusive, two years in the making, and prompted follow-up across the UK and an urgent debate in parliament.

The Guardian's reporting into Mone and PPE Medpro contributed to the launch of a House of Lords Commissioner Standards inquiry into the Tory peer. The National Crime Agency is now conducting an ongoing investigation into the company. In January, the government sued PPE Medpro over 25m surgical gowns the company supplied that were deemed unsafe. Mone eventually announced she was taking a leave of absence from the Lords.

The story was published in the face of two years of attempts to prevent the truth from coming out. Deploying aggressive legal threats, Mone’s lawyers had repeatedly denied that she was “connected in any way” to the PPE business. One such threat in December 2020 warned that “any suggestion of an association” between Mone and PPE Medpro would be inaccurate, misleading and defamatory. It took tenacity and persistence to stick with the story in the face of repeated legal denials.

The culmination of the Guardian’s investigation, which was led by David Conn, was based on leaked documents produced by HSBC. The banking files directly contradicted Mone’s claims that she had never benefited financially from PPE Medpro and was not connected to it “in any capacity”. Barrowman appeared to have been paid at least £65m from the profits, then paid the £29m into the trust for Mone and her children.

That revelation was the result of years of incremental advances by Conn and his colleagues – their first story about PPE Medpro was in December 2020. First they managed to uncover the truth that, despite their emphatic denials, Mone and Barrowman were in fact involved behind the scenes with PPE Medpro. Then it was revealed that it was Mone who first approached Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove offering to supply PPE, swiftly securing two contracts worth over £200m. The Guardian would go on to expose PPE Medpro’s entire supply chain, reporting how 25m surgical gowns the company supplied had been rejected after inspection as unsafe. We also revealed how, after helping secure contracts for PPE Medpro, Mone went on to aggressively lobby ministers on behalf of a Covid diagnostics firm linked to Barrowman.

But it was the revelation that Mone and her children secretly received £29m in profits from PPE Medpro that cracked the story open. In November 2023, almost three years after the Guardian’s first story on PPE Medpro, Mone and Barrowman issued a new statement, admitting, for the first time, that both were involved in the company and back-tracking on years of trenchant denials.