Iain Duncan Smith, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, has visited the Benefit Fraud investigation team in Spain to thank them for their hard work and to show his continued support in bringing overseas benefit fraudsters to justice. In a meeting at the British Embassy in Madrid, investigators explained what they are doing to tackle benefit fraud such as data sharing with the Spanish authorities, which allows them to trace suspects living in Spain. The team has investigated over 1,200 cases to date and has recovered almost £5million of UK taxpayers’ money. Iain Duncan Smith said:
“It is important that fraudulent claimants realise that even if they are living in Spain, it doesn’t mean they won’t be caught. Benefit fraud is a crime and we are committed to putting a stop to it whether you live in Spain, the UK or anywhere else in the world. Our investigators are here in Spain to make sure that no fraudster goes undetected.
“I would urge British residents who suspect someone of committing benefit fraud to call the hotline in Spain on 900 554 440. You can help us to ensure that UK taxpayers’ money is going to those that need it most.”
More allegations of benefit fraud are received in Spain than in any other foreign country. Fraudulent claims for Pension Credit and Income Support are the most frequently investigated.
A man who left Britain to set up a catering firm in Spain is one of the latest cases to come to court. Nigel Hadley, 61, of Pembroke Dock, west Wales, has been ordered to sell his Spanish property to pay back more than £25,000 in falsely claimed benefits.
Hadley moved to Marbella after his marriage broke down in 2000 and bought a fisherman’s cottage two years later. He returned to Britain in 2011 and then claimed employment support allowance from the benefit agency, as well as housing benefit and council tax benefit. In all three cases he failed to inform the authorities that he had a property in Spain, despite being asked verbally and on claim forms.
He was caught after the Department for Work and Pensions sent him a “habitual residency” claim form which specifically asked whether he had any other property. After he once more failed to reveal his foreign property, investigators discovered his Spanish home.
Hadley has been sentenced to nine months in prison, suspended for 18 months, and ordered to pay back £25,960 of claimed benefits through the sale of his £900,000 property, his only asset. He was told to repay all the money within six months or face a jail term.
If you suspect someone of committing benefit fraud you can call Benefit Fraud Hotline in Spain on 900 554 440. Lines are open 8am-4pm, Monday to Friday, and all calls are free and confidential.