A BUSINESSMAN has been arrested on suspicion of fraudulently claiming £495,000 through the Government’s furlough scheme – the first such case in the country.
Customs officers swooped on an address in the Solihull area of Birmingham on Wednesday and seized computers and other digital devices.
Funds were also frozen in the 57 year old’s business bank account, a spokesman for HM Revenue and Customers said.
Officials said it was the first arrest for alleged fraud relating to the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.
More than £27.4 billion has been claimed through the Job Retention Scheme supporting 1.1m employers and 9.4m furloughed jobs.
It is the responsibility of employers to tell the Government how many employees it wants to furlough.
The man was also arrested – along with a further eight men from across the West Midlands – in relation to a separate suspected multimillion-pound tax fraud and alleged money laundering offences.
That operation involved the deployment of more than 100 HMRC officers to 11 locations.
Further computers and other digital devices were seized, plus business and personal records.
Richard Las, from HMRC’s fraud investigation service, said: “The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme is part of the collective national effort to protect jobs.
“The vast majority of employers will have used the CJRS responsibly, but we will not hesitate to act on reports of abuse of the scheme.”
A study published last month suggested around a third of employees have been asked to commit furlough fraud during lockdown with staff experiencing pay cuts and deportation threats in addition to being furloughed.
According to a survey by Crossland Employment Solicitors, 34% of employees have been asked by their bosses to work while being furloughed by their company.
At one manufacturing firm, staff received a 20% pay cut as well as being expected to continue working while furloughed.
And some employees working for firms with a sponsor licence had been threatened with deportation unless they agreed to the furlough fraud.
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