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Fraud squad raid ‘luxury’ home of accountant over alleged theft of €250k from Covid scheme

When detectives searched the accountant’s upmarket home this morning, they seized €45,000 in cash and a BMW car valued at over €50,000

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Ken FoySunday World

An accountant has been arrested today and is being questioned about the alleged theft of €250,000 from the government’s Covid-wage support scheme, the Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme (EWSS).

The suspect, aged in his 50s, was arrested this morning as part of a lengthy investigation by fraud squad gardai who are seconded to the Department of Social Protection.

Officers raided the accountant’s home in Co Meath this morning, a property which is described as “extremely luxurious” by senior sources.

It has emerged that gardai have established that the suspect made claims in respect of 10 companies and 50 staff which came to a total of €250,000.

No one connected to the companies were aware that the fraudulent claims were being made on their behalf and the suspect had worked for an accountant to those firms.

Garda investigations have established that the money went into three bank accounts that had been allegedly been set up by the use of false Chinese passports.

Once detectives from the Garda National Economic Crime Bureau (GNECB) began to examine these accounts, they discovered that an additional €300,000 went into these accounts.

“At this stage the origins of that €300,000 has not been accounted for and it suspected to be the proceeds of crime. There is no legal explanation for why it was placed in the bank accounts,” a senior source said.

Investigations have further established that €45,000 that was stolen in the €250k EWSS scam was then transferred to another bank account.

When this account was examined, specialist detectives discovered that another unaccounted €300,000 had been transferred into that account.

“You are talking here about a total sum of €900,000 and while €250,000 of this has come from the EWSS scam, it has yet to be confirmed where the rest of the cash came from but is suspected at this stage that it has come from Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP) fraud,” the source explained.

When detectives searched the accountant’s upmarket home this morning, they seized €45,000 in cash and a BMW car valued at over €50,000 which is suspected of being bought with the original €250,000 that was stolen.

It is also suspected that €15,000 that was paid towards another car that was located at the suspect’s home originated from the EWSS theft.

At this stage fraud squad officers have recovered almost €130,000 in cash and assets from that theft.

The suspect is currently in custody at Drogheda Garda Station where he is being questioned about theft offences but because of all the other money discovered in the bank accounts he is also being investigated for money laundering and deception offences.

The accountant was not previously known to gardai and sources say that gardai suspect that his motivation is “pure greed.”

“Criminal charges are very likely down the line in this case.

“Investigations have also established that a female closely linked to the suspect unsuccessfully attempted to open a bank account on Swords, north Dublin but she came to the attention of bank staff,” the source pointed out.

The Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme (EWSS) ceased for most employers on 30 April 2022 and all employers on 31 May 2022 according to Revenue’s website.

To qualify for it, a business needed to have experienced at least a 30% reduction in turnover or customer orders between July 1, 2020 and May 31 of this year caused by COIVID 19 issues.

Gardai announced details of the arrest this afternoon.

“Gardaí seconded to the Department of Social Protection, with support from personnel in the GNECB have this morning, 19th November 2022, arrested a man as part of an ongoing investigation into false claims allegedly made under the EWSS (Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme), “ a spokesman said.

“Following a search of a residence in Co Meath today, a man in his 50s was arrested on suspicion of theft and approximately €45,000 in cash and two cars were also seized.

“The man is currently detained under Section 4 of the Criminal Justice Act 1984 at Drogheda Garda Station.

“It is being investigated that claims were made using the names of employees from companies that were not trading during the Covid health emergency. These claims were made without the knowledge of the companies or these employees.

“Approximately €250,000 was paid into bank accounts which were set up with false passports.

The EWSS allowed for companies whose revenue was down over 30% during Covid to make claims for support from Government and Covid recovery funds.”

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