HMRC arrests six over COVID support scheme fraud
HM Revenue and Customs has confirmed that six have been arrested over alleged fraud in relation to two government COVID support schemes.
HMRC has said that three men have been arrested over allegedly fraudulent behaviour in connection to the Eat Out to Help Out discount scheme, introduced in August by Chancellor Rishi Sunak to encourage people to dine out.
HMRC officers arrested the men – aged 43, 48 and 37 – on Tuesday at their London addresses on suspicion of cheating the public revenue and fraud by false representation.
A further three people have also been arrested over alleged fraud linked to the government’s bounce-back loans scheme, on accusation they obtained £145,000 in government-backed loans fraudulently.
They mark the first such arrests as HMRC toughens its approach to scams relating to government support schemes.
“The vast majority of businesses will have used eat out to help out responsibly but we will not hesitate to act where we suspect abuse of the scheme,” said Kath Doyle, the deputy director of HMRC’s fraud investigation service.
“This is taxpayers’ money and any claim that proves to be fraudulent limits our ability to support people and deprives public services of essential funding.”
Last month, the National Audit Office (NAO) warned that the UK government could be losing up to £3.9 billion at the hands of criminals that could be defrauding its schemes aimed to protect jobs and support businesses financially during the COVID-19 pandemic.
HMRC is not expected to know the actual levels of fraud until the end of 2021 at the earliest.