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Latest 18 May 2023

EXCLUSIVE: WhatsApp messages reveal Matt Hancock helped Tory donor win covid contract that cost the taxpayer £38m

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Mustafa Mohammed, who had donated over £230,000 to the Conservative party, lobbied Hancock on behalf of two companies.

Contents of messages obtained by Good Law Project reveal for the first time details of conversations between the former Health Secretary and Tory donor, Mustafa Mohammed.

The relationship subsequently led to a “VIP” covid testing contract being awarded to a company called Ecolog International. The contract was eventually cancelled, but not before the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) agreed to pay a £38m settlement fee.

Mustafa Mohammed has donated over £230,000 to the Conservative Party, and his company Genix Healthcare has handed over a further £160,000 to the Tories. 

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Last December, we revealed Matt Hancock referred Ecolog International onto the secretive covid testing ‘VIP’ lane after being contacted by Mustafa Mohammed. We can reveal, Mr Mohammed, who owns Genix Healthcare, was working in partnership with Ecolog International to provide covid testing services. Mohammed lobbied Hancock directly via email and WhatsApp in the months leading up to the firm’s contract award. 

The pair first exchanged WhatsApp messages on 11 June 2020. Mohammed opened the exchange by saying “Hope you’re well my dear friend and then proceeded to pitch his proposals to the former Health Secretary.

Hancock replied early the next morning by both message and email thanking Mohammed before saying “I have asked my team to look into it and get back to you”. 

A week later on 18 June 2020, Mohammed messages again to say “Thank you ever so much for your kind help. I am very much looking forward to seeing you very soon”, within two hours Hancock replies “Excellent”.

In September 2020, following Mohammed’s lobbying, Hancock’s department issued Ecolog with a Letter of Intent to supply laboratory equipment and PCR testing for COVID-19, but for unknown reasons, the government later decided to cancel the contract. This decision led to a £38.6m settlement fee being paid to Ecolog – a move that was branded a waste of taxpayers’ money by an NHS head of procurement.

The released WhatsApp messages also reveal that Mustafa Mohammed lobbied on behalf of another covid testing company called Oxsed – which had another Tory donor, Mohamed Amersi, on its board. Documents obtained by Good Law Project also reveal Amersi lobbied both Matt Hancock and DHSC minister, Lord Bethell, regarding Oxsed.

Oxsed was successful in setting up covid testing labs at Heathrow Airport and the O2 Arena during the pandemic. But in October 2020, the firm encountered problems gaining government approval, leading Mustafa Mohammed to send further WhatsApp messages to Matt Hancock asking for his “help” to remove the “blockage” preventing his company’s covid test from gaining the correct approval.

Mohamed Amersi, a telecoms businessman and philanthropist, has donated over £500,000 to the Conservative Party since 2018. Meeting minutes obtained by Good Law Project reveal that on 6 June 2020, Mohamed Amersi met with Lord Bethell and discussed the covid test supplied by Oxsed. Amersi also emailed Matt Hancock in September 2020 on behalf of a different covid testing company. In this email, the Tory donor asked the former Secretary of State if he could appoint “a single senior person” to “shepherd this along if it has merit”.

You can read all the Whatsapp messages between Mustafa Mohammed and Matt Hancock here.

A spokesperson for Matt Hancock said: “Matt’s pleased these messages have been released by the department. Government Covid contracts were decided, priced and signed off by the civil service, who are independent of ministers”.

“What happened was a huge amount of hard work to save lives. To suggest any wrongdoing is ridiculous”.

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said:“These contracts were awarded in line with procurement regulations and transparency guidelines and there are robust rules and processes in place to ensure this.”

Good Law Project approached, DHSC, Mohamed Amersi, Mustafa Mohammed, Oxsed and Ecolog for comment.

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