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Job agency, Germany. Photo supplied

Gangs steal millions from German social security

Criminal gangs have in the past year used false information to steal at least 50 million euros from the German Federal Employment Agency Hartz IV. But it may even be more.

Published: November 2, 2018, 7:54 am

    The abuse of benefits has been “due to gang-related crime”, a euphemism for criminal networks of foreigners operating in Germany.

    The theft was discovered through a survey among the country’s job centers. The extent of the theft became known after a response from the Federal Government to a small request from the FDP parliamentary group, which was first reported by the regional daily, the Rheinische Post.

    It is assumed that gang-related crime occurs when groups systematically cheat the state, for example by providing false information about family members, flats or minor occupations in order to receive Hartz IV benefits.

    However, the Federal Agency also lists individual fraud attempts such as violations of notification and disclosure obligations of the recipient of the basic benefit.

    “According to the reports, the number of cases of abuse of power or suspected abuse of benefits was at 4400,” said the federal government in its response. The majority of them have been reported in major cities. Around twelve job centers reported more than 100 incidents each.

    The total number of detected cases of abuse was 119 541 last year, more or less on par with the previous year. The resulting damage estimated by the Federal Agency stands at 54 million euros. But if one adds up all the damages from gang-related fraud, the total amounted to more than 100 million euros.

    Many job centers do not have enough staff to adequately detect poor filing and defective dossiers. According to the report, the Federal Government is also not aware of whether the employment offices are training employees accordingly and whether lawyers are being used to identify these cases.

    “Confidence in the ability of the rule of law to act must not be jeopardized by negligence in the fight against abuse of power,” warned the social-political spokesman for the FDP, Pascal Kober. “The previous measures were completely inadequate for this.”

    Already in March, the Bild newspaper quoted from an internal report, according to which the Federal Employment Agency expressed concern about “well organised gangs” operating to defraud the social security scheme.

    The criminals would “specifically” target people from Romania, who seemingly worked for the government, and then fraudulently collect Hartz benefits, according to the report. But the report makes no mention of the ethnic origins of the gangs themselves.

    Focal points for the fraud noted in the report were Berlin, Dortmund, Hagen, Gelsenkirchen, Duisburg, Bremerhaven, Pinneberg and Neumünster.

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