Disability insurance fraud exposed

Investigations into illegal benefit claims have found 150 cases of abuse of the state-run disability insurance system.

This content was published on August 27, 2009 - 14:48

The Federal Social Security Office believes the overall rate of abuse is around one per cent despite allegations of widespread fraud raised by rightwing political parties, notably against foreigners in Switzerland.

About 300,000 people receive payments from the disability insurance scheme, including 40,000 who live abroad, mostly in European Union countries. Some 4,000 beneficiaries live in countries of the former Yugoslavia and Turkey and have been targeted by critics as potential insurance fraudsters.

Of 950 suspected cases investigated so far, 150 illegal benefit claims were confirmed, one in Thailand, according to officials.

However, investigations carried out on a trial basis in the breakaway Serbian province of Kosovo had to be abandoned following threats against inspectors.

"Fraud and abuse puts into question the credibility of the welfare system. We might have realised this a bit late," Yves Rossier, director of the Federal Social Security Office, told a news conference on Thursday.

He said the office was only given the legal possibility to investigate such cases in 2008 and added that the money saved by tighter controls was not enough to prop up the disability insurance scheme which has run up huge debts.

Voters will have the final say next month on a plan for a temporary increase in value added tax to support the scheme.

Urs Geiser, swissinfo.ch

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