Britain's FBI arrests husband and wife over suspected £1.9m PPE fraud

9 February 2023, 06:12 | Updated: 9 February 2023, 16:16

The NCA made three arrests over an alleged PPE fraud
The NCA made three arrests over an alleged PPE fraud. Picture: Alamy

By Will Taylor

A husband and wife have been arrested over a PPE fraud worth a suspected £1.9 million.

They were arrested alongside another man as officers seized high value possessions including a car, jewellery, watches and digital devices from two properties in Loughborough and one in Lytham St Annes in Lancashire.

The National Crime Agency (NCA) said it also found evidence of "significant cash purchases".

A man in his 50s from Loughborough is suspected of setting up a company to run a fraudulent scheme allowing him to profit from personal protective equipment shortages during the coronavirus pandemic.

It brokered agreements to supply nitrile gloves to companies in the US and Germany worth more than £28m, the NCA believes.

Three people arrested for multimillion-pound PPE fraud

The company supplied PPE including gloves to take advantage of shortages at the height of the pandemic, the NCA believes
The company supplied PPE including gloves to take advantage of shortages at the height of the pandemic, the NCA believes. Picture: Alamy

A fee paid to the company up front and was placed into a holding account managed by a third party.

The holding account said it would only release the funds after the conditions in the PPE contract were met.

Read more: One billion items of Covid PPE were stuck in a warehouse with only one door while NHS staff wore binbags, says Hancock

But the couple was able to use the account and benefit from the money without completing the terms of the sale agreement, it is thought.

The man's wife is suspected of helping to launder the money he received.

A 39-year-old man, who was arrested on Thursday, is suspected of aiding them.

It is believed they may have defrauded companies by almost £1.9m.

Read more: 'Inept' government slammed as Covid PPE losses of £8.7bn revealed

The three are in custody and are being interviewed by investigators.

NCA Branch Commander Mick Pope said: "During the pandemic, both individuals and businesses were impacted by criminal opportunists. The NCA prioritised and tackled a range of serious organised crime threats, including fraud.

"False business agreements that turn out to be fraud, damage the reputation of the UK and hurt our economy.

"We continue to treat this as a priority area and thank Leicestershire Police for their ongoing support. Work is underway with law enforcement partners in the US and Germany to further this investigation."

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