This week, the toll from the Coronavirus pandemic grew as a Conservative Party MP resigned over the UK government’s decision to write off £4.3bn lost to fraudulent claims from Covid relief schemes; French investigators arrested thirteen suspects for allegedly forging thousands of fake Covid health passes; and a South African anti-corruption unit report exposed a sensational money laundering trail.
Find out more on these stories below.
Tory MP resigns over UK Government’s decision to write off £4.3bn of £5.8bn lost to Covid relief scheme fraud
Lord Theodore Agnew, Minister of State at the Cabinet Office, resigned his position dramatically in the House of Lords on Monday 27th January 2022.
Lord Agnew, who was also Treasury Minister with oversight on counter-fraud measures, made the announcement at the conclusion of a parliamentary debate over a decision by HM Revenue & Customs and Her Majesty’s Treasury earlier in the month to write off about £4.3bn of the estimated £5.8bn lost to fraudulent claims from their Covid relief schemes.
His resignation statement, published the same day, was damning in its analysis of how counter-fraud measures were implemented in the disbursement of Covid relief funds, which included:
- He called allocating relief loans to over 1,000 businesses which were inactive when Covid first hit the UK “schoolboy errors”
- He described the failures in management of Covid relief loans which caused an estimated 26% of losses to be from fraud as “a dangerous phase”
- He accused the government of “arrogance, indolence, and ignorance”
The Labour Party’s Rachel Reeves responded to the shock resignation by saying that if “the Government’s own anti-fraud minister feels he is unable to defend the Government’s record on billions of pounds of taxpayer cash gifted to criminals tells you all you need to know about the incompetence of this government.”
Read more on this story at The Guardian.
French police bust gang suspected of forging fake Covid-19 health passes for fraud, money laundering, and data hacking
French police have arrested thirteen people on suspicion of being members of a criminal gang which forged about 60,000 fake Covid-19 health passes.
Authorities launched the probe into the fraud after a nurse in Angers raised the alarm. She discovered that the professional business account of her medical facility had been hacked and reported the matter to police. Eight of the alleged gang members were detained in Lyon, while the other five were arrested in Paris.
Investigators believe three of the suspects hacked into the online profiles of as many as 35 medical professionals qualified to issue Covid-19 vaccination certificates, from which they had forged about 62,000 fake health passes. The “criminal network” allegedly intended to sell the passes on to third parties.
French law dictates that citizens must have either had their third vaccination or be able to prove that they have recently recovered from coronavirus to enter bars, restaurants, and certain cultural venues. Last month French authorities estimated that as many as 110,000 fake health passes were in circulation in the country.
Read more on this story at Euro News.
South African forensic investigation unit exposes playboy businessman for tender fraud and money laundering
The South African President, Cyril Ramaphosa, authorised the release of the report into procurement irregularities, corruption, fraud, and money laundering related to tenders awarded during the country’s COVID-19 response.
Flamboyant millionaire businessman, Hamilton Ndlovu, is the latest target in the crosshairs of the government’s Special Investigation Unit (SIU), who compiled the report.
The SIU initiated its investigation in August 2020, when the unit was alerted to a R72m (£3.5m) tender for provision of coronavirus-linked medical personal protection equipment (PPE) to entities linked to Ndlovu and a partner company, Feliham, which is owned by his fiancé, and excluded from doing business with government.
Amongst the findings were:
- Officials at the National Health Laboratories Service (NHLS) bypassed procurement procedures to award Feliham a contract to supply 2,500,000 surgical shoe covers worth R14,475,500 (£701,638)
- The NHLS paid business entities linked to Ndlovu a total of R172m (£8,34m), of which R42m (£2m) was re-directed to his personal accounts
- The SIU also obtained evidence that little was actually paid for the PPE, and huge mark-ups were common.
His is the latest name on a growing list of suspects exposed by the SIU probe.
Read more on this story at The South African.
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