• Sweden edition
 

Disabled 'trafficked' to Sweden in benefits fraud

Published: 10 Jun 2011 08:33 GMT+02:00
Updated: 10 Jun 2011 08:33 GMT+02:00

Instead of receiving benefits, the disabled victims instead end up owing their recruiters money, finding themselves in a situation akin to indentured servitude, Svergies Television (SVT) reports.

Using promises of living large, representatives from shady firms offering personal assistance services convince their disabled victims to move to Sweden, according to police.

"They pick up disabled people from around the world in order to get customers for their companies," police investigator Karl-Arne Ockell told SVT.

But in order to get by while waiting for the benefits to kick in, the victims must borrow money from their recruiters, who instead keep most of the ensuing benefits for themselves.

"They borrow a lot of money, up to 200,000 to 300,000 kronor ($32,000 to $48,000), and then find themselves in a position of dependency and practically end up as serfs," police said Ockell.

"These people are incredibly crafty; they know more about the system than I do. Many are connected to lawyers and the legislation in this area really isn't very good, it's full of holes," Claes Björnerhag, chief fraud investigator with the Halland County police, told the TT news agency.

Sweden's 1994 laws governing the support and services to be provided to disabled people (lagen om stöd och service till vissa funktionshindrade – LSS) gives disabled people the right to the assistance they need for daily living and, to the extent possible, allow them to lead lives like anyone else.

The legislation includes a law on compensation for personal assistance (LASS – Lagen om assistansersättning) which allows disabled people to receive money to cover the costs of hiring a personal assistant.

The law was first heralded as a triumph for Sweden's disabled, but concerns about fraud soon emerged.

Despite a number of changes to the law in the intervening years, unscrupulous companies still managed to defraud the system.

After a recent slew of scandals involving personal assistant providers, the government set up an investigative commission within the health ministry to see what can be done to close the loopholes.

The commission's suggestions are expected to be completed in February 2012.

According to Björnerhag, one of the biggest problems is that personal assistance companies aren't required to provide Sweden's Social Insurance Agency (Försäkringskassan), which means any remaining gains stay with the company.

"The law needs to be changed so that there's no way to make a profit," said Björnerhag.

Three investigations into benefits fraud schemes involving the recruitment of disabled people from abroad have led to convictions of fifteen people so far, but exactly how widespread the problem may be remains unclear.

Employees at the agency are keenly aware of the fraud related to personal assistants and the "importing" of physically disabled people to Sweden for the purpose of committing benefits fraud.

"It's a very worrisome phenomenon which reminds one of trafficking," the agency's deputy director Stig Orustfjord told TT.

Last autumn the Social Insurance Agency teamed up with the police, tax authorities, financial crimes investigators and the Migration Board (Migrationsverket) in hopes of uncovering fraud by to see whether firms' bookkeeping, work permits, and employers' fees are accounted for and correct.

"We're going after this industry in the same we we've taken on other industries where widespread fraud is suspected, like pubs and restaurants and taxi services," said Orustfjord.

He suspects that about 10 percent of the roughly 20 billion kronor paid out in benefits is lost to fraud.

Sweden's main association for the disabled, Handikappförbunden, also wants to see better supervision and tougher rules for personal assistant providers.

"It's a real tragedy. Now they get permits and then they can clearly do what they want. There's a duty to have tighter supervision and controls so that companies can't go out and trick people," the association's chair, Ingrid Burman, told TT.

David Landes (david.landes@thelocal.se)

Don't miss...X
Left Right

Your comments about this article

09:15 June 10, 2011 by byke
Pidgin journalism ...... That article was utter tripe.
09:32 June 10, 2011 by ruimove
and the SD voted yesterday with the red/green to boost the sick benefits..lol!

that's good that the state knows about this, after all, we tax payers are the ones paying for this scams.
10:06 June 10, 2011 by Streja
ruimove, sick benefits have nothing to do with personal assistance.
11:47 June 10, 2011 by RobinHood
" .....about 10 percent of the roughly 20 billion kronor paid out in benefits is lost to fraud."

Oh dear! Never mind! Carry on everybody, nothing to see here.
12:07 June 10, 2011 by ruimove
Streja, maybe I'm wrong but don't people not working due o sickness able to get personal assistance?
12:22 June 10, 2011 by Syftfel
"promises of generous benefits"? The story speaks for itself. Close the gates. Now!!!!
20:10 June 10, 2011 by Streja
ruimove, sickness like cancer is not like being disabled.
11:39 June 11, 2011 by Puffin
@ rui move

You seem not to know the difference between temporary sickness - ie being off work for a period of time while you are ill or injured and being permanently disabled
Today's headlines
Stockholm Pride 2014
Stockholm Pride bars Sweden Democrats
Photos: Henrik Montgomery/Fredrik Persson/TT

Stockholm Pride bars Sweden Democrats

While a record number of ministers and party leaders will participate in the Stockholm Pride Parade this year, there are notable exceptions - including SD leader Jimmie Åkesson, who is not only 'uninterested' but banned. READ  

Gender neutral 'hen' enters dictionary
Photo: The Local

Gender neutral 'hen' enters dictionary

The ever-controversial pronoun 'hen' has won its battle and is set to officially become part of the Swedish language. READ  

Pines, polska and magic: Urkult Music Festival
Photo: Danny Chapman/The Local

Pines, polska and magic: Urkult Music Festival

The Urkult music festival in northern Sweden may be less sex, drugs and rock'n'roll and more family fun, chai and polska dancing - but Danny Chapman says it’s one of the most magical Swedish experiences he has had. READ  

Presented by Stockholm Business Region
Introducing... ID cards and permits in Stockholm
You want one of these. Photo: Skatteverket

Introducing... ID cards and permits in Stockholm

When it comes to data-driven life, from daycare to healthcare, Sweden is in a league of its own. Above all, your personal number is the key that unlocks life in Stockholm. READ  

In Pictures: The Local's Property of the Week
Photo: Fastighetsbyrån

In Pictures: The Local's Property of the Week

All aboard! We're off to the island of Gotland for our Property of the Week - a home right in the heart of Medieval Visby. Whether you're looking to buy or dying to look - this is the place for you. READ  

Stockholm Pride 2014
Stockholm Pride glides into seventeenth year
Stockholm Pride. Photo: Erik Mårtensson/TT

Stockholm Pride glides into seventeenth year

The largest pride festival in Scandinavia is back for the 17th year in a row. The week promises to be packed with activities - and a glamorous opening gala with Eurovision winner Conchita Wurst. READ  

Preschool teacher arrested for child rape
Photo: Hasse Holmberg/TT

Preschool teacher arrested for child rape

A man has been arrested on the suspicion of raping a child at the preschool where he is employed. READ  

Police arrest 17 people after fatal shooting
Police at the scene. Photo: Niklas Luks/TT

Police arrest 17 people after fatal shooting

Seventeen people were arrested during the early hours of Tuesday after a man was shot dead in central Sweden. Several of the suspects were already known to the police for gang crimes. READ  

Cops find 15kg cocaine stash in woman's car

Cops find 15kg cocaine stash in woman's car

A 35-year-old woman faces charges for aggravated narcotic crimes after police found 15 kilogrammes of unusually high-concentrated cocaine in her car. READ  

Opinion
The top six ways the US and Sweden differ

The top six ways the US and Sweden differ

Back home in the US and with a solid Swedish stint under his belt, contributor Steven Schier has listed what he thinks are the six biggest differences between Sweden and the states. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Skatteverket
Sponsored Article
Introducing... ID cards and permits in Stockholm
Gallery
People-watching, June 26th - 28th. Get inside Stockholm's hottest nightclubs
Gallery
Top ten Swedish taboos
Society
Seven-year-old Swede cycles to Berlin
Politics
'Gaza conflict needs help, not empty rhetoric'
Blog updates

27 July

Approaching Stockholm (Around Sweden in a kayak) »

"I woke up in the comfort of my own little cabin on Eva and Rolf’s boat, it was 7:30am and I was feeling a bit groggy after a couple of beers with all the lovely locals the night before. The previous day had really taken its toll on my body and I was very stiff and..." READ »

 

24 July

Sharing our Pride: Celebrating Love & the LGBT Community! (Stockholm in my American Heart) »

"It’s mid- July in Stockholm, and with much of the city on vacation, things can seem a little quiet – the streets, the bus, and the grocery store. One thing that has not paused for a summer break, though, is preparation for Stockholm’s Pride Festival, which will take place from July 28 to August 2...." READ »

 
 
 
Society
Swedes voted 'most beautiful' in the Nordics
Business & Money
Sweden demands EU clarity on Bitcoin tax
National
Swedish organic sales enjoy 'amazing' growth
Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT
Society
What's On in Sweden
Gallery
People-watching July 23
National
Swedish cops elect not to shoot 'angry elks'
Business & Money
New alcohol retail rules threaten micro-breweries
Gallery
People-watching Båstad
Business & Money
Sweden falls to third in global innovation index
Society
Swedish ornithologists keep webcam watch
Photo: Andreas Nordström/Image Bank Sweden
Gallery
Top ten Swedish beach hot spots
Tech
Swedish Wiki vet sets new content record
Photo: Fastighetsbyrån
Lifestyle
In Pictures: The Local's Property of the Week
Photo: Finest.se
Gallery
People-watching July 15-16
Photo: Ola Ericson/Image Bank Sweden
Society
What's On in Sweden
Photo: Lisa Mikulski
National
Hope springs eternal for expat pet shop owner
Gallery
Princess Estelle steals limelight at mum's birthday
National
Swedes risk infants' lives by covering up prams
National
Swede runs for office just using Bitcoin funds
Sponsored Article
Introducing... Your finances in Stockholm
Sponsored Article
Introducing... Housing in Stockholm
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Germany

More news from Germany at thelocal.de

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

730
jobs available
Swedish Down Town Consulting & Productions
Swedish Down Town Consulting & Productions is an innovative business company which provides valuable assistance with the Swedish Authorities, Swedish language practice and general communications. Call 073-100 47 81 or visit:
www.swedishdowntown.com
If you want to drink, that’s your business.
If you want to stop, we can help.

Learn more about English-language Alcoholics Anonymous in Sweden. No dues. No fees. Confidentiality assured.
AA-EUROPE.ORG/SWEDEN
PSD Media
PSD Media is marketing company that offers innovative solutions for online retailers. We provide modern solutions that help increase traffic and raise conversion. Visit our site at:
http://psdmedia.se