Visage Ltd, a Salford based clothing supplier was awarded PPE contracts worth £6.3 million by the DHSC.
The contracts were awarded by the VIP route, however the name of the referrer was not recorded and now appears to be lost. What becomes abundantly clear is that the family that ultimately own Visage are very wealthy & extremely well connected. Open & Candid found many links to figures in the UK government over the last 15 years.
The first contract was one of the early contracts awarded on 12th April 2020, it was for face shields (eye protection), face masks & goggles, ten days later on the 22nd April 2020 a further contract was awarded for gowns.
DHSC spend records show that £5.2 million was paid within 2 days of both contracts being awarded and in total £7.33 million was spent by the DHSC with Visage Ltd.
Spotlight for Corruption put in a freedom of information request and they then reported on the PPE that came via the VIP channel, where the supply was unfit for purpose. This report suggests that none of the PPE supplied by Visage Ltd was fit for purpose.
Visage Ltd is a wholly owned subsidiary of Li & Fung, a Hong Kong based company who are part of the wider Fung Group. The group is a family owned business ran by brothers William & Victor Fung. Li & Fung is ran by Victor's son Spencer Fung.
It is a long established and successful company. The Fung family wealth is estimated to be in the billions. It was when we looked into the background of William, Victor & Spencer Fung, that we found many connections to the UK government.
HSBC is one of the worlds largest banks. William Fung was a long time director of HSBC and of HSBC Holdings until 2010. In addition to Fung there was a further 20 directors listed in the 2009 HSBC annual report. Looking at the 20 directors we found:
Narayana Murthy father in law of Rishi Sunak. Murthy was on the same HSBC sustainability committee as Fung, replacing Fung as chairman of this committee in 2010.
Stephen Green now Baron Green of Hurstpierpoint, he was appointed Minister of State for Trade & Investment in David Cameron's government in 2011.
Sam Laidlaw who was later to be appointed as Lead non executive director for the Department of Transport, again in the Cameron government. Also serving on the PM's business advisory group.
Sir Brian Williamson co founder of the think tank Politeia, who count Michael Gove as a political advisor.
Rona Fairhead, now Baroness Fairhead, she took over the chairmanship of the BBC Trust, recommended by then Culture Secretary Sajid Javid, and was later was appointed Minister of State at the Department International Trade in 2017 in the PM Teresa May government.
Sir Simon Robertson was a member of the Conservative Party Foundation and has given over £800,000 to the Conservative Party. Though he has also backed Gina Miller's Centrum Campaign and also the Advance Together party. The Conservative Party Foundation board now includes Lord Feldman who was named on the VIP route for other suppliers.
Sir Douglas Flint is now a director of Tufton Street think tank, Centre for Policy Studies alongside a number of high profile Conservative donors and politicians.
Stewart Newton was no longer a director in 2009 but was also on the board at an earlier time alongside William Fung. Newton and his associated companies have donated over £300 thousand to the Conservative Party. His company Sussex Research Ltd was also a shareholder in Mologic Ltd, which was connected to the Global Access Diagnostics £1.1 billion contract for testing that never materialised during the pandemic.
We are primarily showing the connections to the Fung Family and we are not suggesting anything untoward by any one named above.
Hong kong association
The Hong Kong association is a self funded not for profit, also known as the Hong Kong society. In January 2011 Spencer Fung joined 16 others as a director of the association. He was a director until August 2012. A further 3 directors were appointed whilst Spencer Fung was a director. Looking at the 19 directors who were involved during the directorship of Spencer Fung we found:
Douglas Flint who was also on the board of HSBC Holdings with William Fung and is now a director of think tank Centre for Policy Studies.
Dr Gerard Lyons is an economist, he is a senior fellow of the Conservative think tank Policy Exchange. Lyons was also Chief Economic Advisor to Boris Johnson when he was Mayor of London, having previously being a member of Johnson's informal panel of economic and business advisors. He also co-chaired the London strategic migration partnership panel alongside fellow co chair Munira Mirza. who later became one of Prime Minister Johnson's special advisors. He was a keen Brexiteer, who stated food would become cheaper after Brexit! Due to his connection to Boris Johnson he was considered for Governor of the Bank of England in 2019, he is currently a non exec director of the Bank of China.
Stephen Green now Baron Green of Hurstpierpoint who was also at HSBC with William Fung, was for a matter of days also a director of the Hong Kong Association alongside Spencer Fung.
Lord Powell of Bayswater is a former private secretary to both Margaret Thatcher and John Major.
Sir Henry Keswick has donated well over £1 million to the Conservative party and he owned the Spectator in the late 1970's. Sir Henry's late wife Lady Keswick who sadly passed in 2022, was a former director of the think tank Centre for Policy Studies and was a former policy advisor to Ken Clarke.
Peter Sands was a banker who is now executive director of the Global fund to fight aids, tuberculosis & malaria (GFATM). This role led to Sands being appointed to the Pandemic Preparedness Partnership, an expert group chaired by Patrick Vallance to advice the G7 presidency held by Boris Johnson's government in 2021. He is also a senior fellow of Covid contract winning Cera Care.
Sir John Peace is now the Chancellor of Nottinghamshire University, he & lady Peace have donated more than £100 thousand to the Conservative Party. He is the former long time chairman of PPE contract winners the Burberry Group .
The late Sir Adrian Swire, of the large Swire business was also a director at the time. He sadly passed in 2018. The Swire's are consistent donors to the Conservative Party and Adrian's son Barnaby (now a director of the Hong Kong association) is a friend of Boris Johnson from their Eton days. Spencer Fung was until recently a non exec director for Swire Properties Ltd in Hong Kong.
As per the connections for HSBC, we are highlighting all the connections between the Fung family and directors of the Hong Kong association. We are not suggesting anything untoward by any of the people named above.
We also found that a former director Christian Salbaing pictured meeting Greg Hands on a couple of separate occassions. Though again we stipulate no suggestion of wrongdoing, just Greg doing his job at Trade.
We started by saying the Fung Group is a very wealthy and connected business. In the process of our investigation we found that as well as the indirect connections there were direct links between the Fung Group to current members of the House of Lords and one to a Conservative association president.
Lord Meryvn Davies of Abersoch is a former banker. He was also the Minister for Trade, Investment & Small Business under the last Labour Government from 2009-2010. David Cameron on becoming PM asked him to stay in position but he declined.
Davies was appointed Trade Envoy to Sri Lanka by the Boris Johnson government in 2021. That is not however is only connection to Boris Johnson. Lord Davies was the chairman of the Garden Bridge Trust. This was an idea when Johnson was London Mayor to build a new bridge over the Thames. The funding of the bridge also throws out an interesting meeting between then Mayor Boris Johnson and his old school pal Barnaby Swire, Johnson was seeking additional funding.
On the register of interests for the Lords, you will find that Lord Davies was involved with the Fung Group. He was a paid advisor to the Fung retail arm in the UK in 2015. It wasn't the first time that Davies had worked with the Fung's. In 2008 when he was chairman of Standard Chartered, he was appointed to a taskforce around the economic challenges in Hong Kong alongside Victor Fung.
Lord Stuart Rose was also a paid advisor to Li & Fung between 2014 and 2017 according to his register of interests. The businessman known for his role at Marks & Spencer and others was involved in the "remain" camp in the lead up to the EU referendum. Rose can be seen in this picture alongside Victor Fung and the late Lord Myners.
Paul Selway-Swift is another more minor Conservative who was involved with the Fung Group. The former HSBC & Cathay Pacific employee was shown on the 2016 Li & Fung annual report as a non exec director. Selway-Swift is the president of the West Worcestershire Conservative association who have Harriet Baldwin as their MP.
We again state that we are not suggesting anything untoward by any of the people named above.
We can only speculate on the referrer to the VIP channel but even so the questions remain. Who referred the Fung owned Visage Ltd? Will we find out if the PPE was fit for purpose?
The story of the wealthy and very well connected Fung Group is fascinating and we hope you enjoyed reading. We will add that for the size of the contract of £6.3 million that this would be very much small change to the wider Fung Group.