Banks block £1BILLION of fraudulent applications for Rishi’s £40bn ‘bounce back’ Covid loan scheme


Banks block £1BILLION of fraudulent applications for government’s £40billion ‘bounce back’ coronavirus loan scheme as ministers are warned that up to 60 per cent of loans may NEVER be paid back

  • Almost 27,000 dubious applications to Bounce Back Loan Scheme were blocked 
  • It raises questions about how many fraudulent claims were able to get cash 
  • Banks told to only perform basic checks on businesses they were lending to 

British banks have prevented fraudulent coronavirus loans worth more than a billion pounds being paid out to criminals trying to game the pandemic support system, it was revealed today.

Almost 27,000 dubious applications to the Bounce Back Loan Scheme were blocked by lenders over concerns they could be fraudulent, the British Business Bank said in evidence to MPs.

The figure, revealed to the Public Accounts Committee, equates to 2.5 per cent of the cash handed out under the £40 billion scheme.

And it will inevitably raise questions about how many more fraudulent claims were able to access the cash under the scheme set up by Chancellor Rishi Sunak.  

Sarah Munby, permanent secretary at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, told MPs this morning: ‘We were consciously understanding that there would be fraud because of choices made about the design of the scheme.’ 

The Government has already been warned that it faces having to underwrite between £15billion and £26billion owing to fraud and default on loans.

The National Audit Office report last month revealed the figures, worth between 35 per cent and 60 per cent of the whole scheme.

The scale of the fraud will inevitably raise questions about how many more fraudulent claims were able to access the cash under the scheme set up by Chancellor Rishi Sunak (pictured today)

Sarah Munby, permanent secretary at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, told MPs this morning: 'We were consciously understanding that there would be fraud because of choices made about the design of the scheme.'

Sarah Munby, permanent secretary at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, told MPs this morning: ‘We were consciously understanding that there would be fraud because of choices made about the design of the scheme.’

Millions of businesses have relied on the Bounce Back Loan Scheme to stay afloat during the pandemic.    

Banks were told to only perform the most basic checks on the businesses they were lending to under the scheme. The priority was not to stop fraud, but to move billions of pounds out the door.

The scheme was launched in May after the Government was told other loan options were not reaching some of the smallest businesses.

The Government had guaranteed 80 per cent of the loans under previous schemes, meaning banks still did the checks they would normally make when lending money.

However when the Bounce Back Loan Scheme launched, the Treasury promised to reimburse the banks for the full loans if they were not repaid by the businesses. The checks were reduced and money was often paid in less than 24 hours after an application was filed.

Tom Scholar, permanent secretary at the Treasury, told MPs scheme significantly reduced the process of loan application and approval

Tom Scholar, permanent secretary at the Treasury, told MPs scheme significantly reduced the process of loan application and approval

Tom Scholar, permanent secretary at the Treasury, told MPs scheme significantly reduced the process of loan application and approval.

‘On the one hand that certainly made it easier and quicker for businesses to make their applications and for lenders to approve them, but on the other, it reduced the checks that lenders were able to make, it reduced their ability to apply all their normal conditions and minimise the risk of fraud and error and so on,’ he said.

‘I think that was not a decision that the Chancellor took lightly. In the end it was a calculated decision that given the needs of businesses and the urgency of the situation, it was appropriate to accept a higher degree of risk.

‘But I think it was a reasonable decision to try first of all with a more conventional approach, and then… to move to a more unconventional approach.’

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