Over 200 reports of coronavirus support fraud
Over the past two months, government institutions received over 200 reports of fraud being committed with coronavirus support measures. Aid money paid by the government to support businesses through the crisis disappeared into foreign bank accounts, or in one case was even gambled away, AD reports.
The Social Affairs and Employment Inspectorate received 145 reports of fraud involving coronavirus support. The Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) is working on 40 cases. And benefits agency UWV is investigating 21 cases. The total extent of possible coronavirus support fraud is not yet known. Accountants already warned that the reported cases may only be the tip of the iceberg.
Most support schemes pay out a few thousand euros to the claimant, but the NOW regulation - which covers up to 90 percent of salaries for businesses who lost turnover due to the crisis - can pay out hundreds of thousands of euros. One of the FIU investigations involves an amount of 600 thousand euros, according to the newspaper.
The government already pushed billions into supporting Dutch businesses through the coronavirus crisis. The NOW scheme involves the most money - so far 123 thousand employers received a total of 8.7 billion euros through this scheme, in order to keep paying their employees' salaries. The TOGS subsidy for fixed business costs cost the government around a billion euros so far. And the TOZO bridging scheme for self-employed persons has been claimed from 400 thousand times.
Reports of NOW fraud increased over the past few weeks, Hennie Verbeek-Kusters, head of the FIU, said to AD. "We see companies that did not pay salaries before the corona crisis, but have now received NOW support. Or there is staff on payroll, but despite the support, no salary is transferred at all." Such reports have high priority at the FIU, she said. Investigators have seen the craziest reports, she added. "We see that someone gambled the support money online the same day. We also see money being transferred into foreign accounts. And it happens that grant amounts are withdrawn in cash."
"The government intervened very quickly and turned the subsidy tap wide open," Hug Grimbel du Bois, head of money laundering and intelligence at Rabobank, said to the newspaper. "When the support schemes were launched in March, the cabinet immediately added that fraud could be committed. Since then, the banks have also been extra alert to this." According to Grimbel du Bois, banks reported several dozen suspicious transactions around coronavirus support to the FIU over the past months. "We see examples where customers have companies where actually nothing happens. Only around the subsidy application, there is suddenly activity again. We also see that subsidies received are almost immediately transferred abroad."
So far, only one person was arrested on suspicion of fraud with coronavirus support. The 25-year-old man from Naaldwijk was arrested on May 28 by the FIOD, the Tax Authority's investigative department after his bank reported suspicious transactions. The man has a sole proprietorship registered with the Chamber of Commerce. He received 4 thousand euros of support through the TOGS scheme, to cover fixed business costs for entrepreneurs in affected sectors. But his bank noticed that this was the first activity in his company's account in months.