When we launched Open & Candid back in 2020, one of the first stories we covered was the remarkable number of covid contracts that had been won by members of the Plymouth Brethren Christian Church. Over the last 18 months more contracts have been published and more Plymouth Brethren member companies have been awarded contracts. By our reckoning contracts have been awarded to 54 companies and now total well over £2.2 Billion, that is correct over £2.2 Billion!
Our research has gone much deeper, looking at the companies, the people and how there are many connections, that link these companies and directors. We have decided that the revisit of Profit or Prophet will be published in a number of parts. The first part investigates the contracts awarded directly by the Department of Health & Social Care (DHSC) to Unispace Global/Sante Global LLP. Part 2 will look at Medco Solutions & Sterilab Services and hopefully show the web of links between the brethren companies.
The Exclusive/Plymouth Brethren
Our research is linked to companies owned by members of the Plymouth Brethren Christian Church. The Plymouth Brethren is led by one man, that leader is Bruce D Hales, known as the 'elect vessel' or 'the man of god', Hales has led the church since 2002, taking over from his father John Hales who led the then Exclusive Brethren from 1987. Bruce Hales like his father is a businessman, the Brethren members have built a network of businesses that are predominantly based in Australia, UK, New Zealand, USA, Canada but can also be found in France, Germany, Italy, Sweden & Argentina. Estimates suggest there are 50,000 brethren members worldwide, with 16,000 in the UK. Our research in the UK shows that between the Companies registered on Companies House, Church Halls (Meeting Rooms), Schools and the various other Brethren Charities, that there are well over a 1,000 listed brethren entities in the UK alone, covering the businesses, charities & schools. Our findings have also found the incredible wealth that is being built by the members of the church.
As we investigated each of the companies winning contracts, it became apparent that there would appear to be a hierarchy within the UK, most likely within the size of the businesses, if not within the church itself.
At the start of the pandemic in March 2020 Unispace Global was a global interior design business, incorporated in the UK back in July 2011 by brother in laws Cyril Parsons & Garth Woodcock, under the name of Jemc Ltd, each holding a 50% share in the company, a month later in August 2011 they changed the name to Unispace Global Ltd. In June 2013, the partner of Garth Woodcock's niece, Anthony Hazell was added as a director. Cyril Parsons had resigned as a director at the start of 2013 and his 50% shareholding was switched to Anthony Hazell. One year later in June 2014, two more directors were added to the business, Dale Woodcock, the younger brother of Garth and Sebastian Parsons, a son of Cyril Parsons. Companies House show an allotment of shares at the end of 2013 and lists in September 2014 the shareholding, the largest shareholder was now the Australian registered company Unispace Global PTY Ltd, holding a 51% share, Garth Woodcock & Anthony Hazell owned 19.5% each, Dale Woodcock & Sebastian Parsons holding the remaining 10%, each with 5%. The Australian company Unispace Global PTY Ltd was owned by brothers Gareth & Charles Hales, both sons of 'the man of god' Bruce Hales.
The UK business at the end of 2013 showed net assets of £268k, by the end of 2014 that had grown to 584k, by the end of 2015 the business was growing at at a substantial pace with an almost 300% increase of turnover from £12 million to £35 million, the net assets were now at £3.7 million. In September 2016 a confirmation statement shows that Gareth Hales was now named as a person with significant control. In December 2016 Garth Woodcock resigned as a director of Unispace Global Ltd and at the same time Anthony Hazell was also named as a person with significant control, Garth Woodcock shares of 19.5% of the business had transferred to Anthony Hazell, giving Hazell a 39% share of the company. The accounts for 2016 show the business had continued to grow with turnover now at £47 million, net assets at £8.8 million and profits at nearly £5 million. Over the next 3 years there was little change in the Unispace ownership as the company in the UK continued to grow. The business from what we understand was an interior office design, working with major well known clients such as Boston Scientific, Coke Cola, Ernst Young, PWC, Microsoft and Pfizer. They were expanding with offices in most, if not all the countries where there were Plymouth Brethren members. Accounts for 2017 showed continuing growth with turnover at £59 million, net assets at £13.7 million and profits at almost £10 million. In 2018 there were rumours the worldwide Unispace business may be sold, it was also the year the company turnover experienced the first drop, coming in at £56 million, net assets grew to £16 million and profits dropped to just under £4 million. 2019 saw a return to growth, turnover up to £87 million, net assets grew to £26 million & the profits returned just under £10 million. 2019 also saw Dale Woodcock resign as a director of the company, though it is unclear if he sold his shareholding.
The start of the pandemic in 2020 brought the most extraordinary trading conditions for all companies. It would be understandable for an office interior design business to face challenging times. The directors of Unispace however were about to buck the trend, make more profits in 12 months than the Unispace Global Ltd company had made since it's incorporation and would the end year overseeing the sale of the worldwide business.
In March 2020 the UK locked down due to the outbreak of Coronavirus, the UK government were in a state of panic, the NHS was suffering a shortage of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). The government sought help from any company that could help and implemented an emergency procurement process to award contracts without competition. The controls in place will be questioned over many years, especially around the introduction of a VIP lane, the fraud prevention measures and that so many friends & Conservative party donors were awarded contracts.
One of the companies to benefit from the VIP lane was Unispace Global, the office interior design company that suddenly became a PPE provider on a massive scale. Unispace were awarded almost £680 million in PPE contracts by the DHSC. The source of the referral to the VIP lane for Unispace was reported as a generic "GCF Covid-19 Enquiries, mailbox, Cabinet Office", we have been unable to find much further detail. If this was a forwarded email then who forwarded it? We believe the "GCF" is the aCRONYn for the Government Commercial Function. What we could ascertain is that Unispace Global had no previous history of winning government contracts. In total Unispace were awarded 7 contracts:
1) Nitrile Gloves £47,846,500 Unispace Global Ltd
2) Gloves £103,684,000 Unispace Global Health
3) Gloves £161,000,000 Unispace Global Ltd
4) Gloves £9,660,000 Unispace Global Ltd
5) Gloves £3,789,590 Unispace Global Ltd
6) Face Masks £113,950,000 Unispace Global Health
7) Coveralls £239,600,000 Unispace Global Ltd
As you can see, when the contracts were published some were in the name of Unispace Global Ltd & some in the name of Unispace Global Health. There were a number of companies at the start of the pandemic with Unispace in the name. These were all Plymouth Brethren member owned companies with the exception of Unispace Ltd. The companies:
Unispace Global Ltd incorporated July 2011, Shareholders Garth Woodcock, Cyril Parsons
Unispace Health Trading Co incorporated on 11th May 2020, Shareholders Garth Hales, Charles Hales, Anthony Hazell, Sebastian Parsons. The Hales brother owning just over 99%, Hazell & Parsons each with just less than 0.5%. This company shows as dormant though there was a change of director in 2021 with Ralph Green being appointed & Anthony Hazell resigning. The was also a change of company name to Unispace Health & then to Sante Management Ltd.
Unispace Interiors LLP incorporated in 2013, Shareholders the Woodcock family, Garth & his wife, Garth's father Oliver, his brothers Dale & Mark and a Jerry Woodcock. This company has been dormant since 2016. In March 2020 the Woodcock family all resigned and ownership passed to Unispace Global Ltd & Unispace Global PTY Ltd. The companies owned by the Charles & Gareth Hales.
Unispace (International) Ltd incorporated in 2011 as Jemc1 by Garth Woodcock & Cyril Parsons, in 2013 Anthony Hazell was appointed a director. Cyril Parsons left the business in 2015. Shareholders since 2015 are Garth Woodcock & Anthony Hazell with a 50% share each. The company has been dormant for a number of years.
Unispace Properties Ltd incorporated in 2017 as Strategic DB Group, founders were Gareth Hales, Charles Hales, Anthony Hazell, Dale Woodcock & Sebastian Parsons, each holding an equal share. The company has been dormant since incorporation. It is strange to see there is a Strategic DB Group Ltd that was incorporated under the name Unispace Properties Ltd in 2011 and then changed name the opposite way in 2017 to Strategic DB Group Ltd and was dissolved following liquidation in February 2020. The directors of this company were Cyril Parsons, Garth Woodcock, Charles Hales, Gareth Hales, Oliver Whiley, Simon Whiley. Parsons & Woodcock founded the business and along with the Hales had resigned prior to the liquidation.
Unispace Scotland Ltd incorporated in 2013, a dormant company owned 50/50 by Garth Woodcock & his brother Mark Woodcock.
Unispace Health Products incorporated on 28th May 2020, now following a name change is called Sante Global LLP and the heart of the new Hales empire. The partners in the limited liability partnership when incorporated were Charles Hales, Gareth Hales, 250 Management Ltd (Sebastian Parsons), Devon Advisory Ltd (Anthony Hazell) & Sante Property Ltd (Ralph Green). It would appear that towards the end of 2020 the company was restructured to move the PPE contracts from Unispace, which was in the process of being sold to the Hong Kong Investment company Pacific Alliance Group (PAG), to this the new entity Sante Global LLP. There are a number of notices on companies house including the name change, the resignation of Devon Advisory Ltd, a shortening of the accounting period and a change of address to the same address of a well known Brethren company Traxx Tyres, Maxx House, Western Road, Bracknell. On the 5th January this year the companies accounts for the trading period up until 31st March 2021 were published.
The accounts show a turnover of £731 million, with a pre tax profit of £84 million!
Unispace Supply was incorporated on 26th August 2020, now following a name change is called Sante Global Holdings LLP, it is a dormant business with Charles & Gareth Hales, Sante Property Ltd (Ralph Green) & 250 Management Ltd (Sebastian Parsons) listed as directors & shareholders.
Unispace Health Ltd was incorporated on 17th April 2020, it has changed names twice first to Unispace Health Trading Co and now to Sante Trading Co. Ltd. This is a fascinating company as it is the starting place of links to a number of companies and it also indicates where many members of the Plymouth Brethren Church, who were formerly employed by Unispace Global moved to post the sale to PAG. Originally the company was incorporated with just Anthony Hazell as a shareholder. Almost instantly Hazell relinquished his share and was replaced by Charles Hales, Gareth Hales, Sebastian Parsons and a list of new shareholders that includes Russell Devenish, Guy Holding, Anton Dible, Vern Woolgar and extraordinarily Ross Robertson. Robertson was an employee of Unispace Global Ltd, he worked on the Boston Scientific office design project. Ross Robertson had just 3 weeks prior incorporated a new company with his brother Luke Robertson. That new company he incorporated is the huge £772 million covid contract winner Medco Solutions Ltd. We will look at this in more detail shortly. Sante Trading Co. Ltd added Ralph Green to the mix in July 2020 and has since added a number of further ex Unispace Global brethren employees to the shareholders list. The current list below still includes Ross Robertson. The company however is still 99% owned by the Hales brothers. This covers shareholders/employees in the Italian & French offices of Sante.
In summary the Unispace office design worldwide business was sold to PAG early in 2021. Sante was formed early in the pandemic by the Hales in conjunction with Anthony Hazell, Sebastian Parsons & Ralph Green. The £680 PPE contracts were moved to Sante prior to the sale of Unispace. The employees of Unispace have moved to other brethren companies following the sale, many have moved to Sante.
There has been a further contract awarded by the DHSC under the Sante Global LLP moniker, this is on top of the £680 million won under the Unispace name. It is an interesting contract, as it does not readily appear when searching the UK Govt contract finder website and it involves another Plymouth Brethren Member ran company, Sterilabs based in Harrogate. It is also strange that it is not for PPE, instead the contract is for Lateral Flow Tests, there are very few companies that have been awarded contracts for both PPE and for Lateral Flow Tests. Two of these companies are Unispace/Sante and Medco Solutions.
The contract awarded to Sante Global Ltd is for a total of £271,500,000 which would bring the total won by Unispace/Sante Global to a staggering £950 million. It was awarded on the 5th September 2021 and published on the 16th September 2021. It is only by opening the contract itself that you will find Sante Global LLP as part of the Supplier Group!
If we go back, one of the many questions is how and why the contracts were awarded? At Open and Candid part of our investigation looked at how could an office design company become involved in PPE on such a scale? We wanted to find out, were they suitable companies in terms of expertise? If there are any close links between the brethren member companies and the hardest question of all was there any connection to the UK government?
Thus the investigation led us back to the Plymouth Brethren Christian Church members and the companies they owned. In terms of PPE supply and gloves, one company jumped out straightaway, a company called Gloves4u Ltd. The Leeds based Gloves4u was a supplier of rubber/medical gloves to the UK market. They were owned at the start of the pandemic by Garth Christie & his son Neil, Garth Christie is one of the church "elders", he was very familiar with government, he was one of the frontmen for the dealing with the appeal against the charity commission, that went through parliament back in 2013, the other frontman was Bruce Hazell, who just happens to be Anthony Hazell's uncle.
Christie took over the business in November 2016 with his son Neil Christie. The company had been incorporated in 2014 by the founders, the Anderson family & the Green family, with Mark Hynd also a shareholder. When the business was taken on by Garth & Neil Christie they took the majority shareholding, with Don & Ralph Green (yes the same Ralph Green as above) each retaining a 5% shareholding. The Green's family company is the Nexon SCM group based in Lincoln. The Christie father & son team led the business at the time of the pandemic, net assets reported in June 2019 showed a small business with assets of 26k. Gloves4u has switched hands in 2021. Can you guess who are the directors of the company now? The Hales brothers took an 85% share in the business on the 15th March 2021, with Ralph Green taking a 15% share. It would appear based on our discoveries, that Gloves4u was the conduit with the contacts in Asia to deliver the PPE contracts that were awarded to supply the Gloves. It would also suggest that the main beneficiaries of all the PPE contracts were the sons of Bruce Hales the church leader.
The successful appeal against the Charity Commission decision to not grant charitable status to the Plymouth Brethren gospel halls, was heavily supported by a large number of Conservative MP's, including Owen Paterson, Peter Bone, Robert Halfron and Michael Ellis. At the time the Plymouth Brethren Church held an event in Westminster, this was attended by a large number of Conservative MP's, in the course of our research we found that Peter Green the head of Nexon SCM, father of Ralph Green, attended the event and was clearly well known by his local MP for Lincoln, Karl McCartney.
The brethren businessmen are reported to be active lobbyists of their local MP's. This is done at a local constituency basis. A brief promotional video can be found on various sites. This shows Owen Paterson & Robert Halfon talking in glowing terms about the Plymouth Brethren.
The Hales, Hazells, Woodcocks, Parsons, Greens, and Robertsons will appear frequently throughout. In the next instalment of Profit or Prophet we will report on the quite astonishing links between Unispace/Sante & Medco Solutions and show yet more links to government.