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REVEALED: Convicted cocaine criminal joins the Covid goldrush: Drugs trafficker jailed for eight years for assisting the supply of Class A drugs is on the ‘approved’ government list of travel test providers
- Omar Sadique, 38, previously jailed for eight years over cocaine-related charges
- His new company delivers Covid tests to customers and sends them on to labs
- No suggestion that Mr Sadique’s new testing company is operating improperly
- But MPs warned how lax regulations on firms have allowed ‘cowboys’ to cash in
A convicted cocaine trafficker is on the ‘approved’ government list of Covid traveller test providers, the Daily Mail can reveal.
Omar Sadique, 38, was jailed for eight years for assisting the supply of Class A drugs and conspiracy to supply cocaine through his ‘prolific’ nationwide business supplying cutting agents to bulk out the drugs.
Police said that he had controlled the ‘highly organised criminal group’.
Mr Sadique’s new company delivers Covid tests to customers and sends them on to independent labs, and is one of more than 400 firms on the government register of private test providers for travellers.
Although it is not suggested that Mr Sadique’s company is operating improperly, MPs and experts warn that lax regulations and checks on firms included on the official register has allowed cowboys to cash in on the £1billion industry with holidaymakers ‘routinely fleeced’.
Omar Sadique, 38, (pictured) was jailed for eight years for assisting the supply of Class A drugs and conspiracy to supply cocaine through his ‘prolific’ nationwide business supplying cutting agents to bulk out the drugs
Tests, which cost an average of £75 each, are mandatory for travellers returning from amber and green-list countries.
Most rely on the register, listed in ascending price order.
But rogue operators are exploiting a loophole that allows them to ‘self-certify’ to appear on the website, and often aren’t checked out for six months.
Customers have flooded the Mail and review sites with complaints that they have not received tests or results, or that they arrived long after their return.
Labour last night called on Boris Johnson to scrap the ‘discredited list’ after a Mail investigation also found:
- Just 21 per cent of companies on the Government’s list for day two and eight tests are only using labs accredited for those checks. Others use a mixture of accredited and unaccredited labs, which could lack expertise.
- Some customers said they have been sent used nasal swabs.
- Firms are suspected of generating fake companies with cheap prices on the list to push competitors down.
- Other ‘providers’ are feared to be scams set up to steal customers’ personal data to use for fraud or sell to other criminals.
- Many companies have a policy of refusing any refunds, even when customers don’t receive their tests.
- The shambolic system also raises major public health concerns, such as positive cases going unchecked and the potential spread of dangerous new variants.
Private companies can register as test providers on the Department of Health website to appear on the government list, which includes the stated price and a link to the company’s website.
They have to declare they meet minimum standards for testing and name a laboratory and clinical director.
But full checks on these, which are carried out through the UK Accreditation Service (UKAS), can take up to six months.
Critics claim this allows sharks to shut down rogue testing firms as soon as they are assessed and restart as another company.
Most of the providers do not do the tests themselves, but take swabs on site or send out home tests and then courier these to independent labs they have subcontracted to assess them.
Only three labs in the UK have so far been accredited to carry out day two and day eight Covid tests.
Private companies can register as test providers on the Department of Health website to appear on the government list, which includes the stated price and a link to the company’s website
Customers have flooded the Mail and review sites with complaints that they have not received tests or results, or that they arrived long after their return (Pictured: Student swabs himself on Hull University campus)
Some companies boast of using UKAS-accredited labs, when in fact their accreditation is for DNA testing, not Covid-19 testing.
Others use a mix of accredited and unaccredited labs.
To cover itself, the Government states under the list it ‘does not recommend any particular test provider’, adding: ‘Do your own research about available providers, the tests they supply and their terms and conditions.’
Drug dealers bought chemicals from gang
Omar Sadique ran a prolific nationwide business selling cutting agents which bulk out drugs to increase their street value.
Under the guise of a registered company, OA Supplies Ltd, he sold chemicals to drug dealers and other regional distributors, his trial was told.
When the Serious and Organised Crime Agency first started investigating the gang in 2009, they wrote to him making it ‘crystal clear’ that he was under close supervision and he was committing a potentially serious criminal offence.
He not only ignored the letter but escalated his trading, Maidstone Crown Court was told.
At his trial, he claimed to run a legitimate business dealing in chemicals and had no idea they were being used in the drugs trade. But no business records, client lists or delivery records were ever discovered or produced.
When the Mail approached Mr Sadique, the intercom at his £255,000 semi-detached home in Manchester, with a black sports car in the drive, redirected to an address abroad.
He called back on the number listed on the government website, but declined to comment.
But consumer groups say the public put huge trust in government websites and assume that companies on it are approved.
Many of the listed operators have scarcely achieved reviews on the Trustpilot website with more than one star. Complaints cover scams and appalling customer service.
Many firms were set up only in the last few months, operate under trading names not listed on Companies House and use virtual rather than fixed addresses, meaning it is impossible for customers to determine who runs them.
Mr Sadique’s company, Consultant Clinic, is not registered at Companies House, and has no premises or any directors listed. The address on the website is for a virtual office in Manchester. The company set up social media accounts in October 2020 but has no followers.
However, the terms and conditions reveal it is the trading name for Business Consultant Clinic Ltd, and Companies House names Mr Sadique as the sole director.
Sentencing him in 2012 after a five-week trial, Judge Jeremy Gold QC told him: ‘You and others have to understand that the proliferation of these drugs is a cancer in our society. You have played a prominent part in the supply.’
Kent Police Assistant Chief Constable Gary Beautridge said after the trial in Maidstone: ‘The defendants worked as a highly organised criminal group controlled by Sadique.’
Tony Cooke, chief executive of Cambridge Clinical Laboratories, a UKAS-accredited firm, set up in 2005, said the government list was ‘a complete mess’ and the ‘Wild West’.
‘Nobody is policing it,’ he said. ‘To set up as a provider is relatively easy. I was thinking of setting my dog up as one.
‘The list is not fit for purpose. They should just get rid of it.’
Mr Cooke added there was also a public health risk.
‘If you get this wrong, we kill people,’ he added.
Labour’s Ben Bradshaw, who sits on the Commons transport committee, said: ‘It’s high time Boris Johnson scrapped this discredited list. There is no due diligence.’
A Department of Health spokesman said it was taking steps to stamp out exploitation in the private testing market, such as excessive pricing or misleading claims.
‘Companies that fail to meet the high standards required will be removed from our list of approved suppliers without hesitation.’
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