The woman accused of having an extramarital affair with Matt Hancock has been a close friend of the health secretary for more than 20 years – and her appointment as his aide had already attracted controversy.

Gina Coladangelo was pictured kissing Mr Hancock apparently inside the Department of Health building in May, in breach of COVID advice at the time.

The former lobbyist – who is married to the founder of fashion brand Oliver Bonas – was initially taken on as an unpaid adviser at the department on a six-month contract in March 2020, before being made a non-executive director.

It was reported in November that Mr Hancock had failed to declare he had appointed Ms Coladangelo before giving her a £15,000-a-year role on the board.

A source told The Sunday Times at the time: “Before Matt does anything big, he’ll speak to Gina. She knows everything.”

It has since emerged that a relative of Ms Coladangelo is an executive at a private healthcare company which has won a string of NHS contracts.

Sky News revealed on Friday that Roberto Coladangelo works at Partnering Health Limited (PHL Group), a specialist in the provision of urgent and primary care services to NHS patients.

However there was no suggestion that PHL Group or Mr Coladangelo had acted improperly in the procurement of government contracts.

Ms Coladangelo and Mr Hancock have been friends since they attended Oxford University together.

In April last year she featured prominently in a BBC Radio 4 profile on the cabinet minister, in which she joked about their days working in student radio and his unsuccessful attempts at sports journalism.

“He’s very determined, he likes setting himself ambitious goals and meeting them,” Ms Coladangelo said of Mr Hancock.

“We met at the student radio station, Oxygen FM. I read the news and Matt read the sport.

“I’ve always joked with him that he did the sport because he wasn’t good enough to do the news. But I think it gave him an early heads up to aggressive questioning from journalists and hacks.”

During the interview, Ms Coladangelo revealed her extensive knowledge of Mr Hancock’s childhood, saying his parents separated when he was young and his mother “in particular was a very strong influence on him”.

She also recalled Mr Hancock’s attempts at sports journalism, saying he had been granted access to the press box at Twickenham to cover an England-Australia rugby match, but he overslept and watched the first half in a pub.

“So he told a white lie, pretended he was at Twickenham watching the rugby, when he was in fact in a pub at Reading. Successfully, nobody ever found out,” Ms Coladangelo said.

On her LinkedIn page, Ms Coladangelo says she has more than 20 years of experience in business management, marketing and communications.

The reported millionaire is the marketing and communications director at Oliver Bonas, which was founded by her husband Oliver Tress, with whom she is said to have three children.

Ms Coladangelo is also listed on LinkedIn as having been an owner and director of Luther Pendragon, described as one of the largest independent communication consultancies in London, from 2002 to 2014.

Her profile on the Department of Health’s website says she has “wide-ranging” experience in healthcare communications and is a governor of two independent special schools for children with autism.

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