The government introduced the Eat Out to Help Out scheme in August which offered 50% discount of up to £10 per person. The aim of the scheme was to boost the economy after the national lockdown by allowing businesses in the hospitality sector to offer discounted meals on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Whilst this scheme was used on over 100 million meals in the UK, there have been reports of fraudsters exploiting the scheme.
HMRC have arrested a small number of people on suspicion of cheating the public revenue and fraud. They were arrested after being suspected of exploiting the Eat Out to Help Out scheme. The suspects were held in Birmingham at the end of October after being accused of fraudulently obtaining £145,000 in coronavirus relief funds. The National Crime Agency (NCA) have stated that the suspects have been questioned and have been released under investigation. These arrests are the first in tackling fraud and scams relating to the government’s coronavirus business support measures.
The scheme cost the taxpayer £522million and could well reach £600million when all claims are in. Taxpayers could potentially lose £26billion from fraud and organised crime, the NCA have now stated they are pursuing those involved who have sought to exploit the government’s help during this pandemic.