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Latest 24 February 2023

Revealed: Company with just £85 in the bank made £20m profit after Dominic Cummings referred Innova Medical into the ‘VIP’ lane

Jeff Gilbert / Alamy Stock Photo

Good Law Project has seen emails revealing that former No.10 advisor Dominic Cummings referred an offer from two middlemen representing US-based Innova Medical Group within a single hour of being approached.

The approach came from a firm whose “micro-company” accounts revealed issued share capital of £1 and negative £2k in net assets.

The referral from No.10 was enough to land Innova a place on the VIP lane and the firm subsequently went on to win contracts worth in excess of £4bn – making Innova by far the biggest winners of Covid testing deals during the pandemic. 

Good Law Project approached No.10 Downing Street, DHSC and Innova and Disruptive Nanotechnology for an explanation of how a tiny company with no assets pushing a highly controversial product won such privileged access to the heart of Government. But no explanation was forthcoming.

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The emails released following a FOIA request have been redacted, but we now know:

  • Two middlemen – Charles Palmer and Kim Thonger emailed Dominic Cummings directly at 10.39 am on 29 July 2020 on behalf of Innova Medical Group.
  • Included in the 29 July 2020 email was a letter addressed to Mr Cummings with former health secretary Matt Hancock and current Net Zero minister Grant Shapps also CC’d.
  • The brief letter included a plea for the Government to “engage” with Palmer and Thonger over Innova’s “game-changer” Covid test.
  • Within one hour of Dominic Cumings receiving the email, he had referred it to former No.10 advisor William Warr who had in turn referred the offer onto Emma Stanton, the former Director for Supplies and Innovation working on ‘Test and Trace’. Warr also thanked the pair for the “note to Dom”.
  • Less than two months later, Innova was awarded its first contract, valued at £103m – without competition, to supply lateral flow tests. Innova went on to win 12 contracts to supply Covid tests totalling more than £4bn in value.

Charles Palmer and Kim Thonger contacted Dominic Cummings in July 2020 via their company Disruptive Nanotechnology (trading as Tried and Tested). Companies House records at the time show the firm had only £85 in the bank and owed £3,592 in debts.

Following the eye-watering Innova deals, Disruptive Nanotechnology’s profits surged in 2020/21 to £20.5m with a further £18m cash in the bank. Palmer and Thonger were the company’s only employees at the time.

According to reports, Innova medical group have also cashed in during the pandemic, last year, executives were discovered flying the globe in newly registered Gulfstream jets and purchasing ‘multi million-dollar homes’ directly off the back of contracts awarded by the government. 

The decision by the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) to award contracts worth £4bn to Innova has been controversial. In June 2021, US regulators issued a strict public warning and banned the use of Innova Covid tests due to “significant concerns that the performance of the test has not been adequately established, presenting a risk to health.” The scathing FDA “warning letter” also suggested that Innova may have falsified evidence in support of the efficacy of the tests. 

The FDA issued a “Class I recall”, the most serious type of notice, and advised consumers to either “destroy” Innova’s antigen tests or throw them in the “trash”. Six days later the United Kingdom government awarded Innova a further contract, valued at £518m.

We are not satisfied with the government’s response to our FOI requests and we will continue to investigate the latest VIP lane scandal. But we can only do this with your support. If you would like to make a donation, you can do so here.