The Conservative Party accepted a £50,000 donation from a pharmaceutical boss who exploited a pricing rules loophole to hike up the cost of drugs sold to the NHS, it has emerged.
The Times reports that Amit Patel donated the money to the Tories during the general election campaign in 2017 – a year after the newspaper revealed that his company Auden Mckenzie was among several businesses that had drastically inflated the prices of old drugs.
Following investigations by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), Patel was banned last week from standing as director of any company for breaking competition law with the so-called “price gouging” exercise.
In a separate charge, he also admitted tax fraud, paying nearly £15m to settle a case with HM Revenue & Customs over payments for fake invoices.
Auden Mckenzie was able to sell drugs at inflated prices by “exploiting a loophole in NHS pricing rules that meant drugs were no longer subject to a profit cap if they were ‘debranded’ and sold under a generic name”, The Times says.
Under his ownership, the company bumped up the price of an oral steroid of which the firm was the sole manufacturer from 70p a packet to £66.
A Conservative Party spokesperson told the newspaper that all large donations, defined as single amounts over £7,500, “are received in good faith. They are properly and transparently declared to the Electoral Commission, published by them, and comply fully with the law.”
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In the final weeks ahead of last December’s general election, The Guardian reported that the Tories had been handed “large donations worth 26 times the amount received by Labour”.
Boris Johnson’s party raised a total of more than £5.67m in large donations from donors including “the wife of a Russian businessman, property developers and a theatre producer”, the newspaper said.
Meanwhile, The Sunday Times reported that Johnson had blocked the publication of a report into Russian interference in British politics that named “nine Russian business people who gave money to the Conservative Party”.