Benefits cheats defraud Sweden of billions
Published: 16 Oct 2012 12:36 GMT+02:00
Updated: 16 Oct 2012 12:36 GMT+02:00
Hundreds of people may be charged after the Swedish Social Insurance Agency (Försäkringskassan) launched an investigation into care assistance fraud, finding suspected cases of human trafficking and serious crime with international links.
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“Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think that we would find such a mess," said Svante Borg of the agency to daily Dagens Nyheter (DN).
The investigation was launched in December last year. Overall 26 companies that organize carers for disabled people were to be scrutinized with the help of police and other agencies.
According to the paper, the investigation was prompted after an increasing number of fraud cases were detected within the care assistance sector in Sweden.
It has been estimated that 7 percent of the total cost is eaten up by fraudulent claims, which would mean that some 1.5 billion kronor ($225.8 million) of tax payers’ money is wasted each year.
After ten months of work, three out of four companies have been cleared due to lack of evidence. The agency is still working on the remaining third, with analyses, intelligence gathering and in some cases preliminary investigations being carried out.
According to DN, the investigation has taken longer than expected as it has turned out to be more complicated than the agency officials thought before starting.
“When we started looking at these companies they turned out to have a large distribution into other companies, which in turn are linked to serious crime,” Borg told the paper.
Investigators also say that they have unearthed evidence that points to suspected human trafficking.
“They bring in manpower that they later move around. These people are getting paid on paper, but not in the hand,” said Borg to the paper.
Alongside the special efforts, the ordinary investigations into individual benefit fraud continues and after several tip offs from the public and other agencies, it is expected that there will be a significant amount of charges filed in the near future.
Borg told the paper that several cases like that of the bunny fraudster are likely to be unearthed.
In that particular case, a man from Halmstad in western Sweden had claimed for years that he was bound to a wheelchair and as a result qualified for public assistance but was foiled when seen dancing with the life-sized bunny which serves as the mascot for the Liseberg amusement park in nearby Gothenburg.