Strathclyde Police has written to NHS Greater Glasgow to urge it not to go ahead with the award to c, which is on the brink of winning the deal to transport patients and supplies from Glasgow hospitals.

Ministers are also furious that the board has, in principle, agreed to give £2m of taxpayers’ money to a firm that has previously been raided as part of a money-

laundering investigation.

The Herald understands that the health board has recently taken advice from senior counsel to see whether it could change the contract, but has been warned it has already gone too far.

Senior officers confirmed to The Herald that the force had taken the unusual step of sending a formal memo to the board to express their concerns about the firm.

A senior police source said: “Wherever they [the board] have got to in the public procurement exercise, they feel it would be difficult to pull back from it. Strathclyde has written to the NHS Board.

“The board went to senior counsel to see whether it would be appropriate to step back at this stage. The board feel they will have to go through with it but St Andrew’s House [the Scottish Government] is really angry and says you cannot give it to them because this is public money.

“This type of £2m is a guaranteed salary from the taxpayer.”

It follows calls by Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill to tackle serious and organised crime in Scottish communities.

A Strathclyde Police spokeswoman said: “In support of the Scottish Government strategy for tackling serious organised crime in our communities, Strathclyde Police work with other police forces and the Scottish Crime and Drug Enforcement Agency to examine the infiltration of organised crime groups in a number of legitimate businesses.

“Intelligence analysis reveals that a small number of companies are either owned by or have links to organised crime. Strathclyde Police have made a number of intelligence disclosures to partner agencies identifying serious organised crime groups involved in tendering for contracts.

“To be effective in tackling serious organised crime, the police welcome information from the public surrounding such activity and, in particular, those who use their legitimate businesses and professional knowledge to support and or facilitate crime. Strathclyde Police continue to stand shoulder to shoulder with our communities to tackle serious organised crime.”

Network’s former offices in Springburn, Glasgow, were raided in 2004 as part of the Operation Maple money-laundering probe.

The inquiry resulted in a £5m asset order against Russell Stirton under proceeds of crime laws. Searches were carried out at offices in Foundary Street, Glasgow. However, the case is still going through the courts and the authorities have not confiscated any money.

The most recent Companies House record from December 2008 names Kenneth McLeod, 49, and John Cassidy, 47, of Shettleston, Glasgow, as directors. Mr McLeod said yesterday that he was no longer involved with the company and was no longer a director. Mr Cassidy could not be contacted.

A spokesman for Network Private Hire said: “The award of this public contract has been comprehensively reviewed leading to full support for the Network bid as published by the NHS. The company looks forward to performing its obligations under the public contract in due course.”

Stewart Maxwell, the SNP MSP, has written to the health board to express his concerns about the fact that the taxis are unlicensed.

“I am astonished that we find ourselves in this situation despite the fact that so many people have expressed deep concerns, both publicly and privately, about the risk they are taking in giving this contract to this firm.

“Patients should have the highest levels of care but they intend to press ahead with this despite them using unlicensed vehicles. Frankly, this is ridiculous. I fully intend to push ahead with an amendment to the Criminal Justice Bill to close this loophole.”

A health board spokeswoman said: “We have not awarded a contract to Network Private Hire.

“Two weeks ago, new information was made available to us which might materially affect the ability of NPH to meet the contract requirements. We therefore decided to postpone any decision until we had fully investigated this new information. We have separately been in dialogue with Mr Maxwell regarding the issue of the licensing requirements for the contract.

“The legal advice that we have received on this issue is that legislation does not require private hire vehicles to be licensed for the purposes of providing transport services to another business.”

Stewart Maxwell, the SNP MSP, has written to the health board