Government to give “no quarter with incidents of fraud”

At Treasury questions recently, Chancellor Jeremy Hunt said that more than 50 criminal investigations have begun into suspected fraud linked to COVID-19 support schemes.

However, according to Shadow Chancellor, Rachel Reeves, the COVID-19 inquiry is uncovering “unsavoury examples of government mismanagement”.

Ms Reeves claimed that ministers ignored warnings that their business loan schemes were vulnerable to organised crime yet took no action.

In response, Chancellor Jeremy Hunt said that HM Revenue & Customs’ (HMRC) compliance effort on COVID-19 support schemes, which started when the schemes were set up in the spring of 2020, has prevented the payment of, or recovered the overpayment of, over £1.6 billion of grants as of September 2023.

He added that a total of 80 arrests have been made so far, insisting that the Government has “no quarter with any incidents of fraud”.

In fact, between April 2022 and June 2023, more than half of Director qualifications were connected to the abuse of COVID-19 -19 support programmes, particularly the Bounce Back Loan scheme.

As a spokesman for the Criminal Investigation Team at the Insolvency Service commented recently, COVID-19 financial support schemes were funded from the public purse to support genuine businesses during the pandemic.

He said that Directors who abused the scheme have exploited taxpayers and that the Insolvency Service will act to remove directors who abused Bounce Back Loans from the business arena.

Commenting on the bans, Roger Isaacs, Forensic Partner at Milsted Langdon, said: “The fallout from the abuse of the COVID-19 scheme has been significant and clearly had a significant impact on the public purse, which should be addressed.

“Nevertheless, there are those who question whether the disqualification regime is an effective deterrent? In my experience, those banned from serving as directors typically fall into two categories, those who had no intention of ever being a director again and those who simply continue as they did before they were banned but use nominees to take on their formal directorships, while they continue to issue instructions to them from the shadows.

Neither category is affected by disqualification.”


Source: Independent, Guardian, Gov.UK

Posted in The Forensic Blog.