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Boohoo rocked by Covid backlash after hosting Dubai business event

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Boohoo rocked by Covid backlash: Online giant under fire AGAIN as it hosts Dubai business conference at height of pandemic

Boohoo is facing a backlash for hosting an international suppliers conference at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The three-day gathering took place at a luxury hotel in Dubai last week, with suppliers told to bring products and fabrics to show the online fashion business’s bosses.

Senior figures from Boohoo attended, including chief executive John Lyttle, after flying there by private jet.

Controversy: Umar Kamani and Arabic model girlfriend Nada Adelle were reportedly present at the event in a luxury hotel in Dubai

Umar Kamani, 32, the founder of Pretty Little Thing and son of Boohoo co-founder Mahmud Kamani, was reportedly present as well.

Boohoo last night insisted the event complied with Covid-19 rules but it appeared to fly in the face of Foreign Office guidance which advises against ‘all but essential travel’.

Some guests are said to have mingled without masks during the event, including Lyttle.

A spokesman insisted that wearing a mask ‘was compulsory during the meeting’ but could not say whether their 53-year-old boss had observed the rules at all times.

Under Dubai’s local Covid rules, people must wear masks in public places including inside hotels.

The event was said to have angered some suppliers, and some declined to attend. One said later they had been reluctant due to safety fears, but feared losing business if they did not go.

Boohoo is battling to draw a line under a sweatshop scandal after it emerged last year that workers making its clothes in a Leicester factory were paid as little as £3.50 an hour. 

Glitzy: The invitation for event sent out to suppliers. Some guests are said to have mingled without masks, including Boohoo chief executive John Lyttle

Glitzy: The invitation for event sent out to suppliers. Some guests are said to have mingled without masks, including Boohoo chief executive John Lyttle

Retired judge Sir Brian Leveson, who has been tasked with monitoring Boohoo’s supply chain, warned that 13 of the company’s suppliers did not have ‘adequate Covid governance’ in place. 

The firm has been scrambling to reassure investors after a report last year detailed ‘excessive’ hours, life-threatening conditions and illegally low pay in some of its supplier factories.

Tory MP Andrew Bridgen, who represents North West Leicestershire, said Boohoo bosses ‘should not be flying’.

He added: ‘When you have a company like Boohoo, which has tolerated massive labour abuses in its supply chain, we shouldn’t be surprised to also hear that it is not respecting the Covid guidelines as well.’

Last month, Mahmud Kamani insisted he had been ‘shocked and appalled’ by the factory revelations and pledged to make ‘a better Boohoo’.

Mary Creagh, a professor at Cranfield University, Bedford, who campaigns for responsible business, said: ‘Before Christmas, Boohoo’s bosses were in the House of Commons talking about the steps they were taking to better protect people working for their suppliers and become a more responsible business.

‘Once again they talk the good talk, but when it comes to being a responsible business, investors and the board still do not seem to be getting the change they were promised.’ 

Boohoo said: ‘In line with government guidance, everyone that travelled received a negative Covid test before they left for Dubai.

‘The measures that we have all become very accustomed to in the UK, wearing masks, using sanitiser, social distancing and frequent hand washing, were implemented throughout the meetings. It is totally inaccurate to suggest that any supplier was pressured to attend.

‘A number of suppliers declined the invitation and their choice was entirely respected.’

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