Covid loans: business leaders used government aid to buy sports cars

Opportunistic business bosses have used government business loans to help the Covid recovery on luxury goods like sports cars, according to Tory peer Lord Agnew. The ex-treasury minister resigned in part in protest at the government’s handling of the government’s £47billion bounce-back loan scheme, criticizing the ‘schoolboy’ management.

This week he spoke scathingly about how the funds were distributed seemingly without oversight.

Lord Agnew told a House of Lords committee examining the issue that there had been no data dashboard designed to track what had happened to the money.

The National Audit Office estimates that up to £5billion could have been claimed fraudulently.

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In December, the National Audit Office said Tory ministers ‘did not have adequate fraud prevention measures in place’ when setting up the scheme, The Mirror reported.

A national investigation team had received 2,100 reports of possible fraud by October, but only had the capacity to pursue 50 cases a year.

He now aims to recoup “at least £6million” over three years, or 0.01% of the total granted in Bounce Back loans.

By October there had been 43 arrests in 33 investigations and more than £3million in recoveries.

A BEIS spokesperson said: “We continue to work to combat fraud and will not tolerate those who seek to defraud consumers and taxpayers.

“Our Covid support programs have been rolled out with unprecedented speed to protect millions of jobs and businesses at a time when families need them most. Last year, lenders reported avoiding nearly £2.2 billion in potential fraud through the Bounce Back loan scheme.

James V. Hayes