When Michelle Mone sat down for an interview with the BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg last month it was against the backdrop of serious allegations that she had been facing since 2020. Mone and her husband, the Isle of Man-based businessman Doug Barrowman, are the subjects of a long-running National Crime Agency investigation into allegations of bribery and fraud in their securing of £200m in government contracts for a company, PPE Medpro.
She admitted to Kuenssberg that she had lied for years when denying her involvement in the lucrative PPE deals, emphasising in the interview that she was a ‘very successful individual businesswoman’.
The Guardian investigations correspondent, David Conn, tells Nosheen Iqbal that the admission of lying was welcome but that the interview raised other questions.
Mone rose to prominence through her lingerie company, Ultimo, which harnessed the power of a new age of celebrity culture. In August 2015, Cameron appointed her as his ‘entrepreneurship tsar’ and gave her a peerage later the same month. But questions remain about the success of the company, which documents show had been heading for insolvency until it was rescued by a Sri Lankan clothing manufacturer, MAS Holdings.
A spokesperson for Mone, Barrowman and PPE Medpro responded to questions from the Guardian for this story. They said: ‘Michelle was honoured to be asked to join the House of Lords by David Cameron after her role in the Scottish referendum campaign. Her appointment was duly vetted by the House of Lords appointments commission at the time.’
The spokesperson added: ‘Any suggestion that Michelle ran a successful lingerie company for many years but did not have any experience in manufacturing is laughable.’
Neither Cameron nor Iain Duncan Smith responded to invitations to comment. A Cabinet Office spokesperson pointed out that all peerages were vetted by House of Lords appointments commission.
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