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Anti-fraud scheme prevents £2bn of fraud

Written by: Emma Lunn
The National Fraud Initiative (NFI) has detected or prevented more than £2bn of fraud since it was launched 25 years ago.

The scheme was set up by the government in 1996, aiming to protect public money and put fraudsters behind bars.

Notable cases tackled by the scheme include one man who fraudulently claimed more than £40,000 of incapacity benefit, income support and council tax benefits. After this was detected by the NFI, further investigation found he owned several small businesses, had savings of more than £100,000 and owned a Mercedes Benz with personalised number plates.

According to the government, the NFI has also prevented more than £300m of council tax discount scams, £370m of housing benefit fraud, and almost £850m of pension payments being made in error. It has also taken more than 183,000 fraudulently claimed disabled parking badges out of circulation.

In one case data matching enabled by the NFI identified an NHS IT manager working for a hospital trust who was also a sole director of two shell companies.

The directorships had not been declared so an investigation by the Local Counter Fraud Specialist (RSM), the NHS Counter Fraud Authority and HMRC followed.

Investigations revealed that the employee had filed non-trading accounts for both companies during their existence. However, he then produced fraudulent invoices, all under his own £7,500 authorisation limit, and sent them by email from his fictional employees, to obtain £674,000 from the trust.

He even added VAT of £132,000 to make the invoices more plausible. A dismissal and prosecution followed and he was sentenced to five years and four months in prison. Confiscation proceedings are underway to try to recover the funds.

Ben Rowe, senior investigator at the NHS Counter Fraud Authority, said: “The National Fraud Initiative was key in identifying a serious fraud being perpetrated by someone in a position of trust who was stealing large sums of money intended for essential NHS services.

“The scheme offers an excellent example of collaborative working between government agencies being done right.”

Lord Agnew, cabinet office minister, said: “The work done by the National Fraud Initiative is keeping nefarious fingers out of the public purse, protecting funding which can go towards essential services such as the NHS.

“It’s entirely right that British taxpayers expect the government to protect their hard-earned money and programmes such as these allow us to do exactly that.”

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