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Zurich detectives clamp down on welfare cheats

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11:22 CEST+02:00

Social welfare detectives helped Zurich City claim back a record 8.23 million francs from welfare cheats last year.

Detectives, employed by Zurich City for the past five years, have been reporting increasing success. Never before was so much reclaimed as in 2011, which saw Zurich claim back some 8.23 million francs ($8.46 million) from welfare cheats.

The figure represents some three percent of the total amount spent last year on welfare, and reflects an increase of two million francs ($2.05 million) on the amount reclaimed in 2010, newspaper Tages Anzeiger reported.

“Success in the fight against abuse strengthens public confidence in the rule of law,” Councillor Martin Weser told the newspaper.

Zurich’s success has prompted the welfare department to increase its detective workforce by 1,200 percent. In addition to the undercover work carried out by detectives triggered by reports from mistrustful or sceptical social workers, neighbours and acquaintances of the suspects also provide tip-offs.

The most common abuse is the concealment of additional income. Frequently people try to claim welfare benefits while making extra money on the side.

Although the city has laid claim to these sums, actually having the funds returned is another thing entirely. Only one-third of the 8.823 million francs is expected to find its way back to the city – the rest is already reckoned to be have been moved offshore, out of the reach of local authorities.

Some 63 percent of welfare cheats are foreign, the newspaper reported.

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