In a week of targeted action, Finance Ministry and Interior Ministry intercept 180 welfare offenders at border controls Blümel/Nehammer: Zero tolerance for reprobates who enrich themselves at the expense of honest taxpayers
Under the leadership of the Financial Police for eastern Austria, responsible for the regions of Burgenland and Lower Austria, a coordinated large-scale initiative was held from Sunday, 25 July until Friday, 30 July 2021, aimed at combating social welfare fraud. During the week of the operation, at 25 control points, numerous border crossings and at Vienna Airport, 859 incoming and departing travellers, as well as 315 businesses, by way of company vehicles, underwent controls. As a result, around 180 social welfare offenders who had not registered their trips abroad were stopped at the border. They now have to repay up to three years of fraudulently-obtained welfare benefits and can additionally expect to receive substantial fines. In addition, EUR 28 600 was seized on the spot in outstanding taxes and other levies.
Finance Minister Gernot Blümel and Interior Minister Karl Nehammer made a joint statement following the operation: "Cross-border social welfare fraud is clearly an established practice, and we were essentially able to link the fraudsters to just a few specific countries. We wish to thank the dedicated and professional officers who planned and executed this targeted operation across government departments. The results reveal a clear picture, and we will continue conducting our joint controls in a targeted manner."
The reasons given for the foreign trips taken by the social welfare recipients, who were mainly from Turkey, Iraq, Afghanistan, Egypt, Austria and Syria, varied widely, from visits to their home country, to shopping trips in Hungary.
The Ministry of Finance contributed to the operation, with 100 members of the Financial Police, as well as staff from Customs Office Austria. The Ministry of the Interior provided 84 officials, with members of the police from the Regional Criminal Intelligence Units of Lower Austria and Burgenland, the Burgenland Regional Police Headquarters and the Social Welfare Fraud Task Force. In addition, the operation was supported by the Office of the Lower Austrian Regional Government, the Public Employment Service (AMS) for Lower Austria, the Austrian State Health Insurance Fund and the Austrian Pension Fund, with 13 staff.
Three examples of fraud
Case 1 – Waldviertel border checkpoint:
A Czech national has been living for many years in Austria, and has been receiving unemployment benefits for some time. She regularly crosses the small border checkpoint at Fratres and regularly spends a few days staying with her parents in the Czech Republic, without signing off from the Austrian Public Employment Service. She also uses a car licenced in the Czech Republic without paying the standardised consumption tax (NoVA). What is more, since she has entered Austria without a valid COVID-19 test, the authorities impose a quarantine requirement.
Case 2 – Border checkpoint in northern Burgenland:
A female asylum seeker from an Arabic country is not permitted to leave the area of the federal state of Vienna. Her case is at the appeal stage. The woman receives basic welfare support. Without being permitted to do so, she crosses the Kittsee border crossing with her husband in order to go shopping in Slovakia.
Case 3 – Vienna Airport:
An Austrian lawyer, also a jobseeker, returns from a one-month stay in a third country. She is in receipt of emergency unemployment assistance, but has not reported her stay abroad to the Public Employment Service.