Covid corruption in the UK
Covid corruption in the UK/UK taxpayers forced to fund organized crime.
During the Covid-19 pandemic, UK taxpayers have become victims of mass fraud.
On January 24, a member of the House of Lords asked that Boris Johnson’s government provide details on the extent of fraud arising from the Government’s coronavirus support funding. Lord Agnew, The Minister of State, Cabinet Office and the Treasury responded with a shockingly unexpected level of honesty and resigned on the spot.
Lord Agnew has served as both a Treasury and Cabinet Office minister. He was responsible for countering fraud involving the £47 billion of public money given to private companies and banks in the bounce-back loan scheme delivered between 2020 and 2021.
He opened by stating that his job was to defend the government but immediately pointed out the impossibility of doing so. “I am here to defend the Government’s record in the deployment of counter-fraud measures over the last two years or so. However, I will only be able to do that in part.”
He elaborated that the government strategy has been “nothing less than desperately inadequate.” And although he itemized a few examples, he also stated that “these issues run far wider.”
In particular, he highlighted that the oversight "has been nothing less than woeful" and said the Treasury "appears to have no knowledge of, or little interest in, the consequences of fraud to our economy or society.”
He accused them of refusing "to engage constructively with the counter-fraud function that sits in the Cabinet Office, has considerable expertise, and reports directly to [him]”
He went on to say “Schoolboy errors were made: for example, allowing more than 1,000 companies to receive bounce-back loans which were not even trading when Covid struck."
Regarding the banks’ ability to claim on the 100% state guarantee for non-payment, he pointed out the lack of clear counter-fraud measures had resulted in
He claimed, “Bizarrely, it took six weeks to get the duplicate check into place, during which time 900,000 loans, or 60% in total, were paid out, bearing in mind that some £47 billion has been paid out.”
The scale of fraud is staggering. Agnew protested, “It is inexcusable. We have already paid out nearly £1 billion to banks claiming the state guarantee. The percentage of losses estimated to be from fraud rather than credit failure is 26%.”
He explained that there is still “not even a common definition of fraud to trigger the payment of the guarantee.”
Treasury officials failed to "understand the complete disjunction between the level of criminality—probably hundreds of thousands of pounds—and enforcement capability.”
Agnew ended by stating that “the current state of affairs is not acceptable. Given that I am the Minister for counter-fraud, it feels somewhat dishonest to stay on in that role if I am incapable of doing it properly, let alone of defending our track record.”
He then handed his resignation note to a colleague and asked them to pass it to Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
As the Guardian pointed out, “More than 1.5m loans were made. Yet there are only about 1.4m UK private sector businesses with employees. That more than 100% of UK businesses could have taken advantage of self-certified loans that were granted in 24 hours and for which the state was wholly liable should have rung alarm bells.”
According to Agnew, total fraud loss across the government is estimated at £29 billion a year and "a combination of arrogance, indolence and ignorance freezes the government machine."
Last week, the Treasury said it expects to write off £4.3bn in COVID-19 payments lost to fraud during the pandemic, just £1 for every £4 lost. The Shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves responded.
"It should be a source of enduring shame to the chancellor that he has so casually written off £4.3bn of taxpayers' money that is now in the hands of criminals and gangs."
In Manchester, gangs have used these fraudulent loans to fund their businesses.
Back in May of 2020, a drug gang received covid business funding, and just last week, a second gang was found to have successfully applied for bounce-back business loans.
In the second case, the two men applying for the loan had previous criminal convictions, and according to Judge Anthony Cross QC, “the most basic of checks” would have disqualified them from the £145,000 they received.
The gang exported more than 95 stolen luxury cars to Dubai from a business that had never filed a tax return. One man had 48 convictions and had served four years in prison for drug dealing.
Judge Cross demanded an explanation from “the relevant body within 14 days."
In East London, in December 2021, two men were sentenced for money laundering £34m, including £10m they obtained through multiple Bounce Back Loans of £50,000 each. They received £3.2m for their shell companies from just one bank.
They were on bail at the time. The sentencing judge said, "The British taxpayer will be staggered and upset that part of their hard-earned tax contributions was going into the pockets of criminals.”
UK small businesses benefited from covid relief funding. But so did Organized Crime. And the banks made a killing with no risk at all to themselves, as always.
Only £536m of the stolen money has so far been recovered.
Government incompetence paid for by taxpayers.
Cms-user28. (n.d.). International fraudsters ran £70m money laundering scheme. National Crime Agency. https://nationalcrimeagency.gov.uk/news/international-fraudsters-ran-70m-money-laundering-scheme?highlight=WyJib3VuY2UiLCJiYWNrIiwiYmFja2VkIiwiYmFja2luZyIsImJhY2tzIiwiYmFjaycuIiwibG9hbnMiLCJsb2FuIiwibG9hbmVkIiwiYm91bmNlIGJhY2siLCJib3VuY2UgYmFjayBsb2FucyIsImJhY2sgbG9hbnMiXQ==
Opinion Conservatives. (2022, January 27). The Guardian view on a Tory resignation: A minister goes over government failure. the Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2022/jan/26/the-guardian-view-on-a-tory-resignation-a-minister-goes-over-government-failure
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Tovey, M. (2022, January 21). Fury as car thieving gang granted £145,000 in Covid bounce back loans. Mail Online. https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-10427189/Outraged-judge-calls-investigation-car-thieving-gang-got-145-000-Covid-bounce-loans.html