The first cases of companies that have received undue government support through the TOGS scheme are known. The Netherlands Enterprise Agency (RVO) has announced that the first chargebacks have recently been initiated.
The service does not provide more details about how many and which companies. Nor is it whether it concerns intentional abuse of the scheme.
Since March, companies can receive a one-off payment of 4000 euros via the TOGS. The scheme is aimed at sectors affected by corona, and more specifically through government measures to combat the spread of the corona virus.
Companies must use the money to pay for their fixed material costs, such as purchasing. As with some other support measures, companies receive that money quickly, and more extensive ex-post controls are carried out.
Until last Wednesday, 191,000 applications were received by the RVO. More than 181,000 entrepreneurs were paid out, together they received 724 million euros. Some of the other applications have been rejected, the rest are still being processed.
Last week it became clear that the cabinet is extending the package of support measures that will expire at the end of this month. Entrepreneurs eligible for the first round of TOGS support can now receive up to 20,000 euros. Extensive ex-post control also takes place for these benefits.
Reports of abuse of aid
In the meantime, investigative authorities are receiving the first signs of abuse of government support measures. The Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU), the organization that receives reports from banks and accountants, among others, when they see an unusual transaction, now has eighteen files.
It contains 34 reports of suspicious transactions that may indicate abuse of the TOGS and the TOZO, the scheme for self-employed persons without employees. The amount of money involved is not clear. Since an entrepreneur can currently receive EUR 4,000 via the TOGS, and a self-employed person via the TOZO can receive a maximum of EUR 4,500, the total amount will probably be around EUR 150,000 or less.
No conviction yet
The fact that these files are available does not mean that it has actually been established that fraud has been committed. The FIOD and the Inspectorate SZW are now investigating this further.
If the investigation ultimately leads to criminal prosecution, the judge still has to judge whether fraud has been committed. For example, the Inspectorate SZW is already seeing that in some cases it has turned out that transactions afterwards prove to be good, says a spokesperson.
In addition, the number of transactions declared suspicious may of course increase in the coming period. What was the state of affairs on Wednesday will probably no longer be up to date next week, FIU emphasizes.
Since the start of the aid measures, the Inspectorate has been investigating fraud in the schemes together with the Fiscal Intelligence and Investigation Service (FIOD) and benefits agency UWV. Abuse of the NOW scheme, in which the government takes over part of a company’s salary costs, is also being investigated.
The authorities do not know how many cases of potentially fraudulent NOW benefits are currently being investigated. Fraud with this scheme can quickly amount to much larger amounts, because there is no absolute maximum for benefits to companies, regardless of conditions.
In total, more than 100,000 employers have already received money through the NOW. From this they pay part of the salary of more than 1.7 million people together.
FIOD has now received 200 ‘corona-related signals’ of fraud. This not only concerns possible abuse of the aid measures, but also, for example, cheating with mouth masks. Several fraud cases of this amount are already known, amounting to millions of euros.