Six people have been arrested on charges of fraud in two government assistance schemes set up by Covid-19 to help affected businesses.
The HMRC Revenue and Customs (HMRC) said three people were arrested on charges of fraud in connection with the “Help Meals” waiver scheme launched in August by Chancellor Ishii Sunak. On the basis of suspicion of fraud through false presentation of public health and fraud at their London address.
Three people have also been arrested on charges of fraud involving coronavirus bounce-back loans. Ulent 145,000 on government-backed loans were held in their Birmingham area on 30 October on charges of fraud. The National Crime Agency (NCA) said all three suspects were questioned and released after an investigation.
It marks the first arrests in crackdowns on scandals involving government aid projects and in the wake of such national fraud.
Cath Doyle, deputy director of HMRC’s fraud investigation service, said: “Most traders will eat and drink to help responsibly, but we will not hesitate to work where there is a suspicion of abuse of the scheme.
“It limits taxpayers’ money and our ability to support any claim that proves to be fraudulent and deprives public services of the necessary funding.”
Arrests in the bounce-back loan scheme prompted the National Audit Office last month to warn that taxpayers could lose 26 26 billion from fraud, organized crime or default.
The Loans project is designed to support small and medium-sized businesses affected by the epidemic. They are able to take up to 50,000 50,000 and pay no fees or interest for the first year.
Rachel Herbert, from the NCA, said: “The NCA and others will pursue national and organized criminals who seek to exploit the assistance provided to businesses in times of national crisis.”
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