DigiD fraud suspects in court
The eight individuals are suspected of committing nearly 400,000 euros worth of subsidy fraud by requesting DigiD accounts under the name of students in Groningen.
At least 90 students
The hearing on Monday took place two years after the first suspects were initially arrested in December 2013. According Valerie Hoen, a spokesperson for the National Public Prosecutors Office for Financial, Economics and Environmental Offences, it is not unusual for investigation into such a case with so many victims and so much money involved to last a long time.
‘In fraud cases, it often takes years’, Hoen says. ‘There is always a lot to investigate and many witnesses to interview – so much has to happen before a ruling can be made.’ Her department took over the investigation from the Public Prosecution Service in 2015.
A criminal organisation
The fraud was carried out between March 2012 and November 2013, and was perpetrated primarily at student flats located at Esdoornlaan, Eendrachtskade, Duindoornstraat and Van Heemkerckstraat, according to RTV Noord. The Kornoeljestraat and Winschoterdiep student houses, which used to be operated by the Housing Office and are now run by SSH, were also targeted at the time.
The Public Prosecution Service suspects the eight individuals of being members of a criminal organisation, theft, falsification of documents and money laundering.
Personal information is believed to have been stolen from at least 90 students between 2012 and 2013. The suspects would apply for a DigiD code with the personal information of the students and then intercept the activation code which was sent via post. Then, the DigiD accounts were used to apply for rent and health insurance subsidies.
‘High profile case’
The date of the suspects’ next appearance in courts has not been set. The suspects are not being held in custody prior to their eventual trial. ‘This is a high profile case, but the investigation is still going on and as such, we are not in a phase where more information can be shared.’
Among the suspects is an former employee of the Dutch tax services office in Groningen, and a father and son from the town of Veendam who are seen as the potential masterminds behind the scheme.
After the fraud took place, a system for delivering DigiD codes via courier was implemented in the affected areas. International students were targeted in particular due in part to students neglecting to either update their address information at City Hall or to deactivate their BSN when they move away. The large mail rooms in several of the targeted buildings, including Winschoterdiep, were easily accessible, and the suspects were able to fish out the activation codes from the mailboxes.