Instead, Victoria Aitken insists she is pursuing a ‘legitimate claim’ against Euthenia Investments, reports Stephen Delahunty
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The boss of a PPE company has accused an MP’s daughter of “blackmail” after she threatened to sue her firm for a commission on a contract that had already been awarded.
The managing director of Euthenia Investments, Sabia Mokeddem, has spoken out exclusively to the Byline Times to insist she had no prior knowledge of the government’s controversial VIP lane and had not benefited from its use.
Ms Mokedden’s allegation follows a report by the Good Law Project that found how Victoria Aitken, daughter of former Tory Cabinet Minister, Jonathan Aitken, threatened to sue Ms Mokeddem after claiming it was her introduction that secured the PPE contract for Euthenia.
This introduction was revealed in a private LinkedIn exchange with Mokeddem, where it was claimed by Ms Aitken that it was her referral to Lord Agnew, former Cabinet Office Minister, Trustee of Policy Exchange and Conservative Peer, that helped fix the deal.
But Mokeddem has told the Byline Times that she “feels blackmailed” and wants to raise awareness of what happened in case any other companies have had a similar experience. For her part, Ms Aitken denies any attempt at “blackmail” has taken place and insists her actions were and are commensurate with her pursuit of a “legitimate claim”.
Mokeddem added: “I wonder how many other complaints there are about companies being referred through the VIP lane without their prior knowledge or permission?”
It is a fair question to ask. The use of the now infamous VIP lane, which helped to expedite the contracts of chosen suppliers, had led to calls from a number of MPs for an investigation into the awarding of all PPE contracts by the Government.
The Government put in place emergency procurement measures in an attempt to get its hands on as much PPE as possible.
This involved pausing normal competition practices and instead handing contracts directly to favoured firms. Between February and November 2020, 98.9% of COVID contracts by value (£17.8 billion) were awarded without any form of competition.
The Government also established the VIP lane to speed up the awarding of contracts to firms that had been referred by ministers, MPs and officials. Firms referred through the VIP lane were 10 times more likely to be awarded a contract than a company processed through normal procurement routes.
For Mokeddem, the trouble began after her firm was awarded an £880,000 contract in April 2020 for “the supply of personal protective equipment (coveralls) to protect health and care workers from contracting the Covid-19 disease”.
The contract shows that it was concluded on 13 April 2020 and the products were delivered around one month later. Mokeddem said she was then put in touch with Aitken on around 7 May 2020 through a friend who told her she was looking for a company that was already a registered supplier of PPE. After some discussion, Mokeddem said she agreed to act as a wholesaler to Aitken, who would buy the stock off Euthenia and sell it on to other suppliers.
“She started prospecting to the NHS and a few local trusts and she found some clients. At this time, suppliers had to send their quality assurance to prospective clients, which I did, but nothing happened,” explained Mokeddem.
It was only after Euthenia was named in a Daily Mail article in November 2020 that revealed the value of the contract that the firm had won in April 2020 that Mokeddem said Aitken got in touch with her to demand 33% of that deal.
Emails shared with the Byline Times from Ms Aitken’s lawyers show how they contacted Mokeddem in June 2022 under the belief that a Non-Disclosure and Non-Circumvention Agreement had been signed that entitled their client to the commission of one-third of the deal’s value.
This a claim Mokeddem denies, and in response, she sent a copy of the contract’s awarding notice, sale contract and delivery note (all seen by the Byline Times) to Aitken’s lawyers in response. “I haven’t heard anything since”, she added.
“This whole thing has been very distressing as I did everything by the book. I had no idea about the VIP lane or the politics involved. What annoys me is that she said she had proof of our agreement in WhatsApp messages but refused to provide me with them, and I kind of forgot about the whole thing until the Good Law Project contacted me [in February 2023].
She claimed: “I feel like she was trying to blackmail me, maybe she was just born into politics and monetising her contacts might be normal but I feel with the PPE it crossed the line.
“At the end of the day, if I go for a new job I want to be able to make it clear and show that I wasn’t actually involved in this scandal.”
Aitken told the Byline Times in response: “There was never a question of me blackmailing Sabia. I am simply pursuing a legitimate claim.”
In addition, Aitken’s lawyers had previously told the Good Law Project: “It was agreed… that our client would find the relevant individuals within the UK government and ascertain what processes would need to be used in order for Euthenia Investments Limited to be properly registered as a supplier of PPE to the UK government. Our client made some enquiries in this regard and eventually made connection with Lord Agnew‘s office.”
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