Given the necessity of providing fast relief, the wage subsidy scheme provided during COVID in NZ was largely based on trust.
Today, MSD operates a Wage Subsidy Integrity and Fraud Programme aimed at ensuring the integrity of the payments and who received them. So far, 38 people have been brought before the courts in relation to wage subsidy misuse, 37 businesses have civil recovery action underway to recover payments and 11 cases of significant and complex alleged wage subsidy fraud have been referred to the Serious Fraud Office. By and large, businesses in NZ were sincere in their wage subsidy claims, but overseas there are some more extreme examples where this was not the case.
Each year, the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners selects the five most scandalous fraud stories of the year. One of those stories was the arrest of 47 people affiliated with a Minnesota based non-profit ‘Feeding our Future’, which defrauded USD$250 million in COVID relief funds through claiming to feed children during the pandemic. The elaborate scheme used various fake documents, invoices and shell companies to give the appearance of providing meals to children, while using the money to purchase luxury cars, jewellery and coastal property abroad.