Friday 22 September 2017

Woman living in Australia claimed €30,000 disability cash

Marije Nika leaving court after the hearing. Photo: CourtPix
Marije Nika leaving court after the hearing. Photo: CourtPix

Tom Tuite

A woman has been spared a jail sentence for unlawfully getting almost €30,000 in disability allowance payments while she lived in Australia for two years.

Marije Nika (49), a Kosovar refugee with an address at Cardy Rock Square, Balbriggan, Co Dublin, was prosecuted by the Department of Social Protection. Nika, who fled her war-torn country and came to Ireland in 2000, pleaded guilty at Dublin District Court to a charge under the Social Welfare Consolidation Act.

Prosecution solicitor Joseph Maguire said she failed to notify the social welfare office she was living in Australia from 2012 until 2014. During that time she continued to claim the disability allowance and obtained €29,996, but has repaid €6,800. She said she went there to look after her sick daughter.

She still gets the benefit but with a weekly deduction of €28, and at that rate it will take 16 years to pay back the money. It was her daughter who contacted Balbriggan social welfare office, which investigated the matter. Nika confirmed to them she had been living in Australia.

Defence counsel Genevieve Coonan said Nika was originally from Kosovo and was forced to leave in 2000 with her vet husband. Nika suffered from depression and has back problems, and was entitled to the disability payment.

Counsel said she moved to Australia in 2012 because her daughter had been sick. She is remorseful she took an allowance paid for by Irish taxpayers. She is still in receipt of disability allowance and her husband was her full-time carer on a social welfare allowance, the court was told. She was agreeable to an increase in the repayments to €60 a week.

Judge John Brennan said it was a very serious matter. He recorded a conviction but accepted there were extenuating circumstances and did not impose a fine or sentence.

Irish Independent

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