HMRC has opened nigh on 13,000 investigations into suspected fraud and other breaches of the Covid-19 support schemes, according to law firm BLM

A Freedom of Information request found that 7,384 investigations related to the job retention scheme, 5,020 cases are looking at the self-employment income support scheme, and there are 424 investigating of Eat Out to Help Out claims.

BLM also discovered there had been 8 arrests over possible breaches up until the end of March.

Iskander Fernandez, a partner at BLM said: “As is the case with any scheme where fiscal support is provided, loopholes will emerge that can be fraudulently exploited. In hindsight, it is easy to say that more should have been done by way of due diligence on each applicant but given the scale of the pandemic and all the uncertainty the nation was gripped with, it is hardly surprising that gaps emerged. Some fraudsters will have taken full advantage of the situation to line their own pockets.

“Whilst some of these interventions could well be the result of unintentional error, the Treasury’s decision to invest £100m into a specialist coronavirus fraud taskforce shows that the government is keen to crack down on any misuse of these schemes. It’s still unclear as to whether this funding will be sufficient to tackle the level of suspected fraud, however, and what the make-up of the specialist task force will be. Will it is pooled from existing resources, causing an imbalance in other teams, or will there be a recruitment drive by HMRC?”

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