Chancellor ready to hunt down people swindling cash through Covid support programmes

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A dedicated unit to crack down on Covid-19 fraudsters exploiting Government financial rescue schemes like furlough is due to be announced in the Budget next week.

The Taxpayer Protection Taskforce, underpinned by £100million and 1,250 staff, will investigate and hunt down people swindling cash through coronavirus income support programmes, said the Treasury.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak will announce the UK-wide unit as part of a series of anti-Covid fraud measures on Wednesday, it said.

He said in a statement: “Our coronavirus support schemes have helped millions of honest, hard-working people – but a small minority have seen this pandemic as an opportunity to defraud the taxpayer.

“This will not be tolerated – which is why the new taskforce will crack down on this criminal activity.”

Other expected announcements include new measures to crack down on fraud in the Bounce Back Loan Scheme.

Businesses have claimed furlough payments for more people than they employ during the pandemic, and claiming furlough for employees who continue to work.

HM Revenue and Customs has around 10,000 open inquiries into suspected Covid fraud and some criminal investigations are under way.

A report last summer warned taxpayers face losing billions of pounds to fraudsters targeting Government schemes.

The Policy Exchange think tank said the measures rushed through to save people and businesses from economic ruin are particularly vulnerable to scams because of the size of the packages and the speed with which they were introduced.

Last July, a man from Solihull, West Midlands, was arrested in connection with allegations of a £495,000 fraud of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.



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