The French government is underway with the investigation of an alleged €1.7-million fraud of the country’s temporary unemployment scheme that was meant to aid businesses and workers amid the global pandemic.
According to a report by Euronews, the Paris Prosecutor’s Office (PPO) had launched a probe into the “massive fraud,” with the initial investigation in Toulouse showing that 13 of the country’s 16 regional offices of the Ministry for Labour “were confronted with massive fraud in the payment of compensation.”
The PPO said that they identified more than 160 corporate victims in the southwestern region of Occitanie while 110 fake bank accounts were set up to receive the compensation.
They also said that they were able to locate 18 fraudulent transfers amounting to €868,000, of which nearly half of the amount was recovered from French bank accounts.
“Fraudulent requests for payment of compensation were made by electronic declaration by usurping the company name and the SIRET identification number of existing companies which did not ask to benefit from aid for partial activity,” the prosecutor’s office was quoted as saying in a statement.
“If more than 1.7 million euros corresponding to fraudulent claims have already been unduly paid by the ASP [National Agency for Payments], the payment of more than 6 million euros was suspended as soon as the infringements were discovered,” it added.
The government introduced the temporary unemployment scheme in late March to prevent companies from announcing bankruptcy and laying off employees amid the hard lockdown that was meant to keep the virus outbreak at bay.
As part of the scheme, the government initially agreed to pay employees’ wages in full. It has since been cutting the amount it pays.
At present, the government now covers up to 85% of wages while the remaining 15% was allocated for the employers.
The government is eyeing another reduction on October 1.
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