A SOLIHULL man has become the first person in the UK to be arrested on suspicion of defrauding the government’s furlough scheme out of nearly £500,000.
HMRC officers executed a search warrant in the Solihull area and arrested the 57-year-old on suspicion of cheating the public revenue, fraud by false representation, VAT evasion and money laundering.
Computers and other digital devices were seized, and funds held in a bank account relating to his business have been frozen.
The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) – also known as furlough – sees the government pay 80 per cent of the wages of staff who have been stood down from work during the pandemic, allowing them to keep their jobs when they might otherwise be made redundant.
Richard Las, acting director of 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.
“This is taxpayer’s money and any claim that proves to be fraudulent limits our ability to support people and deprives public services of essential funding.
More than £27.4billion has been claimed through the scheme, supporting 1.1million employers and 9.4million furloughed jobs.
The man was also arrested in relation to a suspected multi-million pound tax fraud and alleged money laundering offences.
A further eight men from across the West Midlands have also been arrested as part of the investigation, in which over 100 HMRC officers were deplyed to 11 locations
Further computers and other digital devices were seized, plus business and personal records.
Anyone who is concerned their employer might be abusing the CJRS can report it to HMRC online. Visit https://tinyurl.com/ybjkdpau for more information.