No criminal prosecution in childcare subsidy scandal
The Public Prosecution Service OM is not conducting a criminal investigation into the role of the Tax and Customs Administration and its officials following the childcare subsidy scandal. After a “careful assessment of the facts and circumstance,” the ministry of Justice announced that it would not proceed with a criminal prosecution.
Many parents were duped in the childcare allowance affair because the tax authorities wrongfully accused them of being fraudsters. Subsequently, they were ordered to repay their benefits. In some cases, this amounted to tens of thousands of euros.
The involved Secretaries of Finance filed a complaint against the Tax Authorities in May last year on the grounds of suspected extortion and professional discrimination.
A case of extortion is present when a civil servant claims, receives, or withholds cash unlawfully because it would be owed to the ‘public fund.’ According to the judiciary, the childcare allowance was not owed to the ‘public fund,’ but to the parents. Moreover, legally, it is not extortion if the payout to the parents is stopped or reclaimed due to suspected abuse or fraud.
The OM further asserted that there is no question of professional discrimination. The Ministry of Justice has established that the Tax and Customs Administration “searched” for nationality in combating abuse and fraud, but the Public Prosecution states that ethnicity played no role in the individual assessment of cases.
Additionally, as the Tax and Customs Administration is part of the State, it is immune from criminal prosecution, says the OM. The same applies to civil servants who implemented the policy. The investigation does not show that civil servants acted for their own gain or interest.
“The OM realizes that this outcome may be a disappointment for the affected parents,” writes the justice department. “Parents who have themselves reported to the OM could ask the judge to prosecute through a so-called ‘Article 12 Cod of Criminal Procedure’.”
Last month, a parliamentary committee of inquiry concluded that many parents in the childcare subsidy case had been treated with “unprecedented injustice.” The committee also added that the fundamental principles of the rule of law had been violated.