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Ministry denies benefits fraud inaction, claims €2.1 million to be returned

The Ministry for Social Policy and Children's Rights denied claims suggesting its inaction in an alleged widespread abuse of social benefits intended for individuals with severe disabilities.

“Efforts by the Division for Financial Aid and Observance, led to the suspension of 141 cases and the planned recovery of €2.1 million in undeserved payments. As of now, €330,000 has been successfully recouped,” the ministry confirmed in a press statement on Tuesday night.

READ MORE: PN questions Prime Minister’s silence on social benefit fraud scandal

The Sunday Times of Malta last Sunday revealed the details of the social benefit fraud perpetrated by former Labour MP Silvio Grixti, who resigned from parliament in December 2021 when the case first emerged.

Grixti used to provide people with a package of falsified medical certificates and documents, which they later used to claim severe disability benefits amounting to more than €400 per month. The fraudulent exercise benefitted around 800 people and police have been charging the beneficiaries with social benefit fraud.

However, despite Grixti having been interrogated by the police, no charges have yet been filed.

READ MORE: Former Labour MP Silvio Grixti unmasked in disability benefit scandal

According to the Ministry, its Division for Financial Aid and Observance took proactive measures in 2022 by providing information to law enforcement agencies. 

This action was prompted by suspicions of fraudulent activities and potential falsification of medical documents discovered within a series of applications received by the ministry in September 2022.

The ministry clarified that while it is not privy to the specifics of ongoing police investigations, law enforcement authorities had formally requested details of all beneficiaries of the Assistance for Severe Disability program from 2019 to 2022. 

“The division complied with this request. However, this does not mean that there was abuse in all those cases,” the ministry clarified.

In collaboration with law enforcement agencies, it added, the ministry took significant steps to curb potential abuse of the Assistance for Severe Disability program. 

This while suspending 141 cases and planning the recovery of €2.1 million in undeserved payments.

The Ministry also emphasised that determinations are based on the professional judgment and conclusions drawn by medical experts in each individual case.