Baroness Michelle Mone, a Tory peer, is taking a leave of absence from the House of Lords to "clear her name" over claims concerning PPE contracts.
A statement released by her office said: “With immediate effect, Baroness Mone will be taking a leave of absence from the House of Lords in order to clear her name of the allegations that have been unjustly levelled against her.”
Lady Mone will not be able to attend House sittings, vote on any proceedings, or claim any allowance while on leave of absence.
According to documents obtained by The Guardian, the Conservative peer and her children secretly received £29 million from the profits of a PPE company that was awarded large government contracts after she recommended it to ministers.
Lady Mone's assistance helped PPE Medpro secure a spot in a "VIP lane" created by the government during the coronavirus pandemic to prioritise companies with political ties. It then won contracts worth more than £200 million.
The Guardian reports that tens of millions of pounds in PPE Medpro profits were later transferred to a secret offshore trust, the beneficiaries of which were Mone and her adult children.
Earlier this year, the Isle of Man mansion of the Tory peer was searched by the National Crime Agency (NCA) as part of an investigation into a PPE company linked to Mone and her shared home. The NCA was looking into PPE Medpro, a business that received more than £200 million in government contracts without going through a public procurement process during the onset of the pandemic.
The agency searched multiple premises connected to the corporation in the Isle of Man and London on 27 April. The home where Baroness Mone lives with her husband, and the Isle of Man office building where PPE Medpro is registered were among them.
But why were they searched, and who is Baroness Mone? Here is everything you need to know.
Who is Michelle Mone?
Baroness Michelle Mone is a Scottish entrepreneur and parliamentarian, who was born on 8 October 1971 and grew up in Glasgow’s East End.
Mone left school at the age of 15 without any qualifications; according to her book, Michelle Mone: My Fight to the Top, she was bullied at school because she was “terrible” academically.
At the age of 17, Mone met her future husband, Michael Mone, and converted to Catholicism for him. At the age of 18, she fell pregnant with their first child.
Mone and her husband married when she was 19 years old, and she went on to work for Labatt Brewing Company as a marketer. Within two years, she was promoted to the company's head of marketing in Scotland, but at the age of 24, was laid off.
Mone has since admitted to lying about her qualifications on her CV to secure the job.
With the money she received from her redundancy, she went on to develop Ultimo, a lingerie company that specialised in creating bras that were both comfortable and attractive.
Mone was invited to join the board of directors for the Prince's Scottish Youth Commercial Trust by Prince Charles in 2001, and she was awarded an OBE by the Queen in 2010 for her business achievements.
Who is her husband?
Mone and husband Michael, with whom she has three children, announced their divorce in 2011.
Mone proposed to businessman Douglas Barrowman in 2018, and the two were married on 29 November 2020. Borrowman is the father of four children from two previous marriages.
In 2021, the Conservative peer was accused of sending racist and abusive WhatsApp messages.
It was claimed that Mone sent the messages in 2019 after a crew member was killed aboard her husband’s yacht in Monaco when it collided with another boat.
The House of Lords standards commissioner was handed screenshots of the WhatsApp communications, but they were reportedly unable to examine the issue because the messages were not sent during the course of Mone’s parliamentary duties.
Why was her home searched?
On 27 April 2022, searches were carried out at four homes on the Isle of Man "in support of an ongoing NCA investigation," according to the Isle of Man constabulary. No arrests were made.
More than a dozen police officers are said to have arrived at the Knox House building in Douglas, the island's capital, where the Isle of Man PPE Medpro firm is registered.
Documents, laptops, phones, and other electronic devices are said to have been seized from the building by officers.
A Wardour Street address in central London was also searched, as was the office of the UK-registered PPE Medpro company, which was awarded two government contracts for £203 million.
The investigation is likely to bring up new issues about the £12 billion in PPE contracts that the government issued during the pandemic under emergency regulations that bypassed normal competitive tendering processes.
It will also refocus attention on PPE Medpro - as well as the procedure by which the business obtained said contracts - which has been the subject of several recent scandals involving Mone and other notable Conservatives like Michael Gove, Theodore Agnew and James Bethell.
The company was one of 51 that were processed through a government-run "VIP lane" designed to expedite businesses that had been recommended by politically connected persons.
Mone appears to have played a key role in Agnew's decision to put PPE Medpro in the "high priority" VIP lane in May 2020.
The Guardian claimed in January 2022 that leaked documents suggested Mone and Barrowman were working with the PPE Medpro business discreetly.
Mone's lawyers responded at the time, saying the Guardian's findings were “grounded entirely on supposition and speculation and not based on accuracy.”
Mone's attorneys have responded to previous stories by saying that any indication of a relationship or cooperation between the Tory peer and PPE Medpro is "inaccurate", and that she was not involved in the company.
What is her net worth?
Michelle Mone's net worth is unknown, however it is speculated to be in the range of £20 million or above.
According to one website listing Baroness or Lady Mone as a motivational speaker, her in-person speaking fees range from £20,000 to £25,000, and her virtual event speaking fees from £15,000 to £20,000.