Published On: Thu, Jun 18th, 2020

Border closure brings cross-border social security fraud to light

29-05-2020-Bellevue-1 French side Border Controls - Photo by FaxInfo

PHILIPSBURG – The temporary closure of the border between the French and the Dutch side of the island has brought to light the magnitude of fraud with the French social security system, committed by people living on Dutch St. Maarten. The soualigapost.com web site reported this week that social security payments by La Banque Postale dropped by around one million euros each in the months of April and May due to the fact that Dutch side fraudsters were unable to enter French territory to withdraw money – putting the damages for that period against the current rate of exchange at $2.26 million.

Soualigapost.com explains in simple terms how the fraud works: use an address on the French side (of a friend, a cousin, an uncle or an aunt) to fulfill one of the main conditions for receiving social benefits: being a resident. The trick is known to everyone, the web site writes.

“Even if you live and or work on the Dutch side you can thus claim family allowances or RSA because you are able to provide a French-side address.”

RSA stands for Revenu de solidarité active (Active solidarity income). Recipients of these benefits received as of April of this year €550.93 ($622.55) per month. The French government introduced RSA in 2009 to provide a minimum income for unemployed and underemployed citizens with the aim of encouraging them to find work and to provide a complement for low-wage workers so that they would not earn less through employment than through unemployment.

While the French authorities have been aware of the fraud for a long time, investigations are scarce due to a lack of human and financial resources.

At the end of 2018, 7,203 households received benefits from the Family Allowance fund (CAF). This is a child support program that pays around €130 ($147) per month for a family with two children up to around €460 ($520) for a family with four kids. These households represented 17,933 people.

There were 1,917 RSA-recipients for a total of slightly more than one million euros ($1.1 million) per month.

Soualigapost.com notes that a large number of recipients cash their benefits at La Banque Postale.

The closure of the border between the French and the Dutch side during the state of emergency confirmed what French authorities had long suspected. While beneficiaries living on the Dutch side were unable to collect their benefits, French-side recipients could still go to their bank. In April and May the payouts dropped by one million euros each. When the border restrictions were lifted many Dutch-side recipients returned to the French-side bank.

The prosecutor’s office on the French side has been informed about these developments. The Territorial Anti-Fraud Operational committee (COTAF) is the French side equivalent of the anti-corruption task force (TBO) on the Dutch side. Investigating social security fraud is one of COTAF’s priorities and now investigators have an opportunity to identify fraudsters.

This could lead to charges not only against those who unjustly collect social benefits but also against those who provide them with a French-side address.

Next to this cross-border fraud-scheme, the French side is battling another phenomenon: that of foreign women who give birth at the Louis-Constant Fleming hospital in Marigot and have their child recognized (against payment) by a French man. This way, the children obtain French nationality while their parents are not French and they qualify for CAF-benefits.


Related articles:
Soualigapost.com: The closure of the border highlighted social assistance fraud
French authorities confirmed closing border control posts
Exposé report: Reasons for the continued French side border controls after May 17
French side border controls remain in place
Why does the French continue monitoring the borders?