Fraudsters and sly people also in Germany on anti-crisis state aid

Fraudsters and sly people also in Germany on anti-crisis state aid

Thousands of scam attempts attempted by German citizens (but also by foreigners residing in Germany) who tried to grab the money of immediate aid allocated by the Merkel government would be in the order of thousands

When German newspapers talked about the risks of fraud and criminal pollution with reference to state aid for coronavirus, they perhaps did not imagine that the dangers would also concern German funding.

Thousands of scam attempts attempted by German citizens (but also by foreigners residing in Germany) who have tried to grab the money of immediate aid allocated by the government and regions, although not entitled to it, would be in the order of thousands. Targeted in particular are financial support to small businesses with fewer than 15 employees and to self-employed workers, categories that without those aids would have probably fueled a dramatic chain of bankruptcies. Except that, alongside the many who owned it, to try the scam and in some cases to succeed were also employed, unemployed, even public officials. Or, as had happened in Italy with the income earners of citizenship, also people who already received the state subsidies of the Hartz IV. In addition to real gangs of organized crime, in particular the notorious Arab clans that have long been one of the problems of public order in the German metropolises.


Already in early May, the Anti- Money Laundering Unit had received 2,300 suspicious reports cataloged under the terms " Covid-19 " or "Soforthilfe", the name by which immediate State aid was called. The reports came directly from banks that had recorded unusual deposits on some accounts. It was the case of customers who had suddenly been credited with the amounts of aid (9,000 or 15,000 euros) on accounts that normally counted only hundreds of euros. Hence the alarm signal sent to the recycling officials.

Weeks ago, the director of the Unit Christof Schulte had admitted to the microphones of the public television Zdf that, following the delivery of immediate aid for the coronavirus, the number of reports had increased clearly and in a very short time and that in all over Germany 530 fraud investigations had been initiated. In the meantime, a number that has grown. The regions, which managed the distribution of their own incentives or that of the federal government, had started the practices by the end of March. The need to hurry, skipping the traditional bureaucratic complications, had favored a mechanism that was at once lean and rapid. It was enough to fill out a simple online form, indicating tax information and financial needs, and the practice was quickly unraveled. In a few days the applicant found the euro requested on his account.


This procedure saved many micro-enterprises from immediate bankruptcy and alleviated the economic difficulties of many self-employed workers. But the fact of having to rely on a sort of self-declaration has left room for the temptation of many. There are those who, even in good faith, did not fully evaluate the conditions that were required and the conditionalities related to the use of money: for example, it was not possible to use federal money to bridge the decrease in workers' income individuals (the Solo-Selbständige) or to pay the insurance dues of the medical and pension funds but only to pay any running costs of the activity such as rentals of premises and personnel. And there are those who set a real scam on it. As happened in North Rhine-Westphalia, where a criminal organization had even created a fake official page by intercepting and stealing sensitive applicants' data. In that Land it was necessary to suspend the disbursement of the aid for a few weeks in order to recover the situation under control.


Now the emergency has moved to Berlin. According to reports from the Tagesspiegel , at the end of May the prosecutor's office in the capital had 500 investigations underway for suspected fraud on subsidies. At the beginning of the same month there were 125. The same prosecutor speaks of "a massive wave of scams related to fast aid paid to small entrepreneurs and self-employed workers" and of an "extremely dynamic" situation: on average 40 new investigations are opened every week , while the economic volume of damage to public funds is estimated at around 4 million euros (only at the beginning of April it was 200,000 euros). But the figure is far underestimated, they add bitterly from the prosecutor.

A spokesman for the Berlin Development Bank IBB , a public institution aimed at financing the economy of the capital that manages the flow of fast aid money, revealed to the same newspaper that there are currently 880 cases of investigations for suspected fraud. But at the same time it throws water on the fire. The trend of the cases shows that this is a marginal phenomenon, the spokesman explained, and 12,500 people have already voluntarily returned the contribution that was not due to them: a sum of over 83 million euros.

Then there is the case of the so-called Arab clans, the most insidious criminal organizations in Berlin. Already at the end of April, the checks initiated by the Berlin police had intercepted 250 requests for aid attributable to elements of the Arab clans. One in particular concerned the case of a boss's son, owner of a company that manages a refugee shelter.


Marginal or not, the central government has decided to run for cover. Undersecretary for Economic Affairs Ulrich Nussbaum, who knows the ins and outs of Berlin's local politics having been the finance manager of the capital for five years, has officially asked for information from the Berlin Senate (the city government) on the use of the funds. The federal ministry fears that Berlin has acted with ease in the delivery of aid, going as far as to cover the staff costs of self-employed workers and small businesses of up to 10 workers, which federal funds excluded. The IBB replies that in the case of federal funds, the form explicitly indicated that those costs were excluded. The problem is that many have made the same request and that the outgoing checks, also to meet the needs of rapid dispensing, have been extremely superficial and the requests rejected are counted on the fingertips. The federal government has asked the Berlin authorities to carry out a thorough retroactive verification, but recovering the incorrectly allocated sums will be difficult and time-consuming, despite the renowned efficiency of the German tax control system. In another Land, the aforementioned North Rhine-Westphalia, police searches made it possible to get hold of several scammers: among them a small businessman who, in addition to having requested the help himself, had also forced his 81-year-old mother to fill in the module. The entire sum, quickly received, was then just as quickly invested in gold bars. In this case, all requirements from the cops.

This is a machine translation from Italian language of a post published on Start Magazine at the URL on Mon, 15 Jun 2020 11:14:59 +0000.