SFO begins inquiries into multiple cases of potential Covid-19 wage subsidy fraud

The Serious Fraud Office has launched several inquiries into alleged abuse of the Government’s Covid-19 wage subsidy scheme.

The director of the financial crimes department, Julie Read, said in a statement today the accusations relate to multiple complex cases of potential fraud.

The cases have been referred to the agency after extensive investigations by the Ministry of Social Development (MSD), she added.

Last year, the Government provided the SFO with funding to specifically investigate fraud arising from the global pandemic.

Investigating allegations of serious abuse of the wage subsidy meets the mandate for that funding, Read said.

“We are pleased to be supporting the extensive work already being undertaken by MSD in response to abuse of the Covid-19 wage subsidy, by contributing the expertise of our specialist investigative teams to look into cases of a particularly challenging and complex nature,” she said.

The SFO would not provide any further comment while its inquiries are under way.

Since the start of the pandemic the Government has paid out more than $17 billion across all schemes including the wage subsidy and Covid-19 leave support.

Just under $750m had been repaid, according to MSD figures.

Since August 20, the Government has paid a total of $3.2b under Wage Subsidy August 2021, Finance Minister Grant Robertson confirmed yesterday.

The package of economic supports since August 2021 totals $4.3b.

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