Around GBP5bn of funds intended for businesses under Covid-19 support schemes found their way into the hands of fraudsters, HMRC revealed today.
In the UK tax department’s annual report, it said 6.4% of the money paid to support furlough employees went either to scammers or organised criminals.
Organised crime raked in GBP350mln, but that is dwarfed by the GBP4.6 billion picked up by what HMRC described as “opportunistic fraudsters”.
Criminals targeted all the schemes available from the government from Furlough, Self-Employment Income Support Scheme and Eat Out To Help Out.
A government spokesman told the Standard: “The Covid support schemes have helped millions of people and businesses through the pandemic, and the government was clear that the priority was getting money to those who need it as fast as possible.”
“The Taxpayer Protection Taskforce is expected to recover GBP1bn from fraudulent or incorrect payments over the next two years, and work is already under way, with 23,000 ongoing investigations.”
HMRC added the schemes were set up quickly to protect business at the onset of the pandemic.