RETIRING British Ambassador Dame Denise Holt is expecting exceptional results from the introduction of a benefit ‘cheats hotline’ earlier this year.
Talking to the Olive Press she revealed that there had been a “large number” of callers informing their neighbours.
“It is going to be big, that is for sure,” said Dame Denise, on the expected financial returns of the hotline.
Speaking on a trip to Malaga to welcome new Consul Steve Jones, she continued: “The hotline has been very busy, with a large number of referrals.
“Obviously, it takes some time to investigate each case, but the anticipated saving for the British taxpaper is going to be big.”
While declining to explain how exactly the government was going about its investigations, she revealed that the Spanish authorities now automatically advise the Embassy of all deaths of British citizens in Spain.
This makes it impossible for cheats to claim benefits and pensions for their deceased relatives, as has often been the case in the past.
The British government announced a crackdown on benefit cheats living in Spain in April.
It has emerged that the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has had two permanent staff based at the British Consulate in Malaga.
“One couple have been jailed for three years after cruising on a luxury yacht while claiming illegal benefits.”
They believe British citizens abroad are diddling the British taxpayer out of an estimated 65 million euros a year. Officials believe the majority are in Spain.
Martin Fitches from the DWP told the Olive Press: “There are one million people here and the vast majority are law-abiding – so we’re working with them to catch the people who are stealing British taxpayers’ money.”
He revealed that this year alone that had been 70 investigations into benefit fraud on the Costa del Sol.
One couple have been jailed for three years after cruising on a luxury yacht while claiming illegal benefits.
A man in Benalmadena, home to more than 6,000 British expatriates, admitted he was cheating the system and claimed that the practice was widespread in the town.
“Everybody else is doing it, so why shouldn’t I?”
Mr Fitches confirmed that the hotline had been a big success.
He said: “We have had a steady stream of calls since we started, and the vast majority have been positive. Callers are outraged that people are stealing ‘their’ money.
“Obviously it takes a long time to investigate each alleged case, but we anticipate huge savings for the British taxpaper.”
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