Widespread benefit fraud among career criminals

Thirteen career criminals have been reported to the police for serious benefit fraud as the social insurance agency continues its hunt to tackle widespread abuse of the system among criminal gangs.

A special unit was set up by the Swedish Social Insurance Agency (Försäkringskassan) in the summer to target professional criminals in receipt of benefits.

Since September at least 24 people connected to criminal gangs have received letters from the agency questioning their rights to benefits and demanding repayment of sums approaching six-seven million kronor ($710,000), according to a report in Dagens Nyheter (DN).

So far 13 of the known criminals have been reported to the police on suspicion of benefit fraud.

The most common abuse of the system is within sickness benefits. Several of those reported to police have been found to have reported fictitious employer details, incomes and vague references.

“This is an important part of our work with suspected offences. We are not talking about large sums of money, but it concerns the legitimacy of the social insurance system,” said the agency’s director-general Curt Malmborg to DN.

Among those reported to police include a 64-year-old Hells Angels member in Stockholm who owes over 200,000 kronor, a 31-year-old neo-Nazi leader who owes over 60,000 kronor and 37-year-old convicted criminal and former restaurant owner who owes over one million kronor for fraudulent sickness benefit claims.

Individuals connected to criminal gangs present a tough opponent for authorities trying to combat benefit fraud. They often have the resources to employ efficient legal counsel and the process can therefore become drawn out.

The agency’s special unit is reported by DN to have a heavy workload with at least a hundred further cases waiting to be considered.