Friday 28 November 2014

Dole crook flew from Malaga to sign on here

Published 19/08/2014 | 02:30

More people are saving, which may be a sign of the economic recovery
More people are saving, which may be a sign of the economic recovery

A dole fraudster flew back and forth from Malaga to Cork to illegally sign on, pocketing more than €6,000, an investigation has found.

The crook was one of dozens of people caught in a Department of Social Protection crackdown on 'welfare tourism'.

He committed the fraud on dozens of occasions over a six-month period, returning to the Spanish city each time.

In another example provided by the department, a man fraudulently claimed social welfare to fund his lifestyle in Poland. He was fined €1,500 and has now repaid the money.

A total of €2.3m has been saved on behalf of the taxpayer since the launch of the operation, which sees individuals being stopped and questioned at the country's airports and ports.

Figures obtained by the Irish Independent show sums totalling €60,000 have been directly paid back to the State by individuals caught fraudulently claiming social benefits while living overseas.

Seven cases have been successfully concluded in the courts while a number of others are outstanding.

The Department said 167 people have been investigated since Social Protection Minister Joan Burton launched the crackdown in 2012.

The department's operation involves a team of social welfare inspectors who visit the country's ports and airports if they have "reasonable grounds" to believe an individual is committing fraud.

Provisions in the Social Welfare and Pension Act 2012 allow the inspectors to question individuals who are preparing to embark or who have landed off an air or ferry service.

The inspectors can request passengers to produce relevant documentation in order to prove that they are legitimately claiming benefits.

"Activity is confined to either directly interviewing the client on embarking/disembarking as well as observing a client embark/disembark with an interview taking place," a department spokesperson said.

"This provision is a very helpful addition in tackling welfare fraud where the person is not habitually resident in the State.

"It is having deterrent impact on this type of practice."

Irish Independent

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