HMRC says six held over alleged fraud linked to ‘eat out to help out’ and bounce-back loans
Six arrests have been made over alleged fraud in two government support schemes designed to help businesses hit by Covid-19.
HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) said three men had been arrested on suspicion of fraud linked to the “eat out to help out” discount scheme, introduced in August by the chancellor, Rishi Sunak. 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.
Three people have also been arrested over alleged fraud linked to coronavirus bounce-back loans. They were held in the Birmingham area on 30 October accused of fraudulently obtaining £145,000 in government-backed loans. All three suspects were questioned and have since been released under investigation, the National Crime Agency (NCA) said.Advertisement
It marks the first such arrests amid a crackdown on scams relating to government support schemes and come amid fears of widespread fraud.
Kath Doyle, the deputy director of HMRC’s fraud investigation service, said: “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.
“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.”
The bounce-back loan scheme arrests are thought to mark the first of many after the National Audit Office warned last month that taxpayers could lose as much as £26bn from fraud, organised crime or default.
The loans scheme is designed to support small and medium-sized businesses affected by the pandemic. They are able to borrow up to £50,000 and do not have to pay any fees or interest for the first year.
Rachael Herbert, from the NCA, said: “The NCA and others will pursue those serious and organised criminals who seek to exploit the help provided to businesses during a national crisis.”