Cloud over NHS deal (CORRECTED)

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The Independent Online

AN NHS Trust hospital in Stevenage is planning to award a big contract to a company, JS Pathology, one of whose indirect shareholders is a Swiss businessman who received a three-year suspended jail sentence and a fine for his part in a Belgian banking fraud, writes David Hellier.

The contract to manage the pathology testing at the Lister hospital is one of the first of its kind in the health service.

According to US documents, the man in question, Giorgio Gherardi Dandolo of Vesenaz, Switzerland, owns 23.24 per cent of the shares in Uniholding Corp, a Delaware- registered company, which last March acquired a majority interest in Unilabs, the parent company of JS Pathology.

Mr Gherardi's wife, Dominique, owns a further 5.33 per cent, according to the documents. The documents also show that Edgard Zwirn, the chairman of Unilabs, owns 23.04 per cent of the shares.

Bob Ewings, the chief executive of the North Herts Trust, which is negotiating the contract on behalf of the Lister hospital, said that the contract 'was in the final stage of negotiations.'

He said he was aware of various allegations about Unilabs, but that he has put safeguards in place. 'I could spend my whole time on wild goose chases, but if you have something that looks serious and relevant I would like to see it.'

He said he would look at the documents, which are in the possession of the Independent on Sunday.

The British Medical Association has been critical of the way in which the contract has been negotiated.


Unilabs - In an article on 24 July 1994 about the award of a contract for the management of pathology services at the Lister Hospital, Stevenage, to JS Pathology, we indicated that one of the shareholders of the company owning a majority share in JS Pathology's parent company, UniHolding Corporation, was a businessman who had received a suspended prison sentence and who had been fined for a Belgian banking fraud.

We now accept that the individual referred to disposed of his shareholding in UniHolding Corporation in March 1994, prior to UniHolding Corporation acquiring the Unilabs SA Group of Companies. We are happy to make this clear.