Partners of fraudulent beneficiaries targeted

Last updated 12:43 20/02/2013

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Spouses or partners of fraudster beneficiaries will be snared under new legislation designed to crack down on welfare fraud.

Announcing the measure today, Associate Social Development Minister Chester Borrows said there would be a new offence created targeting partners or spouses of beneficiaries who are convicted of fraud.

It meant both parties would be charged, not just the person wrongly collecting the benefit.

"Relationship offending last year cost over $20 million and makes up one third of welfare fraud prosecutions," Borrows said.

"Currently there are few options available to prosecute partners who know or benefit from such offending, leaving the entire debt with one partner."

The new offence of relationship fraud would hold people to account for any debt incurred by their partners while fraudulently claiming a benefit.

Partners could face a fine of up to $5000 or 12 months in jail and MSD would be able to seize assets owned or jointly owned by a spouse or partner under the Criminal Proceeds (Recovery) Act to help pay off the debt.

About 700 cases a year were expected.

The Government was also introducing new measures to verify information provided by beneficiaries who had previously been dishonest with the Ministry of social Development.

The new measures would include limiting their access to self-service transactions.

A third initiative would see data sharing between ACC, Inland Revenue, Housing New Zealand, the New Zealand Police and the Ministry of Social Development.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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