A well-oiled organization.
The Lyon judicial police have uncovered a large network of short-time work scams by eight shadow companies in the South-East, with damage to the state estimated at 2.4 million euros, AFP learned to the heads of the Financial Crime Division.
At the end of August, a company in the Saint-Etienne region drew the attention of Tracfin, the department of the Ministry of the Economy in charge of the fight against money laundering.
Bercy alerts the PJ on a "suspicion of fraud in an organized gang" by noticing that 400,000 euros in compensation for short-time working, linked to the health crisis, were then unduly received.
Partial unemployment fraud: millions of euros embezzled
The company, which claimed to be a vehicle rental company, had declared 49 employees, each earning an average of 4,000 euros per month, while it employed none, according to a source familiar with the matter.
After a first report to the Saint-Étienne public prosecutor's office, the investigators noticed by examining the banking movements of the company that seven other companies were also recipients of undue indemnities, claiming also to exercise in the rental of vehicles or the savings of 'energy.
Money movements to Hong Kong
A vast circuit of money laundering and cross-payments between the different structures of the network is then reconstituted, fed by the aid granted in the name of "whatever the cost".
"We are dealing with a network of scams committed to the detriment of the State," confirms Judicaële Ruby, divisional commissioner of the economic and financial section of the PJ of Lyon.
Of the 2.4 million euros in compensation paid until last month to the eight shadow companies, 1.4 million were seized by investigators for criminal assets.
Part of the million euros evaporated could have been hidden abroad, movements to Hong Kong having been discovered by the Lyon PJ.
The damage could have been even higher since in total the aigrefins had asked for 3.4 million euros in partial unemployment aid.
Three people, all known for acts of fraud, were arrested Tuesday around Saint-Étienne and in Isère.
A fourth accused was arrested in the Bouches-du-Rhône by the Marseille PJ.
30,000 euros in cash were seized from those who are suspected of being "network heads", relying on "straw managers", according to investigators.
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“We know that there are and will be a lot of scams in relation to all the aid mechanisms put in place by the State in this crisis.
The crooks are surfing the loopholes in the economic system, but we are not without reaction to these phenomena, ”says Judicaële Ruby.