Record £1.1bn recovered in international benefit fraud after government crackdown, new figures show

Jamie Johnson
Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey says that specialist teams work around the world to recover fraudulently obtained taxpayer money  - Reuters

A record £1.1 billion was recovered by the government last year in a clampdown on international benefit fraud by UK citizens, new figures show.

The fraudulent claims include people continuing to receive certain UK benefits while living abroad, deliberately failing to declare property overseas or being in receipt of a UK disability benefit while working abroad.

Working with teams of international fraud specialists in Essex, Madrid and Alicante, as well as contacts in over 70 countries across the world, the Department for Work and Pensions recovered the record total in overpaid benefits in relation to both UK and international fraud. 

They also saw around 5,000 fraudsters convicted and a further 5,000 benefits cheats given administrative penalties.

Around 3.8 million British citizens live overseas, and the authorities have an ever-increasing caseload to try and secure prosecutions for fraud back in the UK.

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This year, Abigail Tetteh-Lartey, from Middlesex, was found guilty of international benefit fraud after hijacking the identities of four Ghanaian citizens who had departed the UK as well as falsely creating another three British identities.

The 54-year-old used the profiles to falsely claim welfare benefits over a number of years and used the money to help create a property portfolio worth in excess of £1m.

 Ms Tetteh-Lartey was convicted of 14 counts of fraud, and sentenced to four and half years in prison.

In another case, 55-year-old Frances Pedder from Aylesbury was claiming a raft of UK benefits, including Disability Living Allowance and working tax credits.

Investigators uncovered that Ms Pedder had a residency in Portugal and had taken over 70 separate flights in under five years (including to the USA, Paris and South Africa).

She was found guilty of fraud, fined £12,500 and ordered to pay a victim surcharge or face a 12 month custodial sentence. The defrauded amount recovered was over £28,000.

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Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey said:   “The Department for Work and Pensions uncovers thousands of benefit fraud cases every year and our international reach means our approach to tackling fraud isn’t just limited to the UK.

"Our specialist teams work continually to establish new intelligence sources across the globe and catch the fraudsters who divert taxpayers' money from people in need.”