Eurojust Assists UK in Cracking Down on Benefit System Fraud

Published: 12 April 2024

fraud pix4free1Fraudsters stole more than 50 million pounds through false claims for U.K. social security payments (Photo: Nick Youngson, pix4free, License)

By Zdravko Ljubas

United Kingdom authorities have convicted five members of an organized crime group that submitted thousands of false claims for U.K. social security payments, using either real individuals or stolen identities.

Their operation was described by the European Union Agency for Criminal Justice Cooperation, Eurojust, on Wednesday as the largest fraud against the U.K. benefit system.

The Bulgarian nationals have admitted to charges of fraud and money laundering, contributing to damages estimated at over 50 million pounds (US$62.69 million).

According to the statement, the fraud took place between Oct 2016 and May 2021, and the fraudulent claims were allegedly supported by a variety of forged documents, including fictitious tenancy agreements, counterfeit payslips, and fraudulent letters from landlords, employers, and general practitioners.

The fraudsters persisted in their attempts, resubmitting claims multiple times until they were eventually approved.

The gang's leaders recruited individuals from Bulgaria, procuring their identity documents and offering them a share of the profits from the fraudulent benefit claims made in their names. Upon acquiring the funds, these recruits returned to Bulgaria, prompting scrutiny from Bulgarian authorities.

Following their initial arrest in the United Kingdom in May 2021, one of the five defendants evaded capture and fled to Bulgaria. However, thanks to collaborative efforts between U.K. and Bulgarian law enforcement, with the Eurojust’s support, he was extradited back to the U.K. in Feb 2023.