More welfare cheats slapped with fines

German authorities caught a record number of people cheating the Hartz IV welfare benefits system last year, according to a Friday news report.

More welfare cheats slapped with fines
Photo: DPA

The Federal Labour Office (BA) issued a massive 226,269 fines and penalties for abuse of the system, daily Berliner Zeitung reported. This was 61,636 more cases than the previous year – a jump of 37.4 percent.

The total value of fines and penalties climbed by nearly 30 percent to €4.8 million. The average fine issued was €105.99, which was actually €1.20 less than in 2009.

“The current figures don’t tell us that more and more Hartz IV recipients are cheating,” BA board member Heinrich Alt told the paper. “It’s more a confirmation that we are doing well at the job centres.”

Workers in the BA job centres were today well-attuned to the risk of fraud attempts and well-trained, he said. The number of BA employees dedicated to detecting welfare offences had risen from 620 to 700 during 2010.

In about 35,000 cases, authorities suspected fraud but were unable to confirm it.

The most common offences were failures to declare work income or extra financial savings that would normally reduce Hartz IV payments.

The Local/djw

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German man jailed for killing petrol station worker in mask row

A 50-year-old German man was jailed for life Tuesday for shooting dead a petrol station cashier because he was angry about being told to wear a mask while buying beer.

German man jailed for killing petrol station worker in mask row

The September 2021 murder in the western town of Idar-Oberstein shocked Germany, which saw a vocal anti-mask and anti-vaccine movement emerge in response to the government’s coronavirus restrictions.

The row started when 20-year-old student worker Alex W. asked the man to put on a mask inside the shop, as required in all German stores at the time.

After a brief argument, the man left.

The perpetrator – identified only as Mario N. – returned about an hour and a half later, this time wearing a mask. But as he bought his six-pack of beer to the till, he took off his mask and another argument ensued.

He then pulled out a revolver and shot the cashier in the head point-blank.

On Tuesday, the district court in Bad-Kreuznach convicted Mario N. of murder and unlawful possession of a firearm, and handed him a life sentence.

READ ALSO: Shock in Germany after cashier shot dead in Covid mask row

Under German law, people given a life sentence can usually seek parole after 15 years. His defence team had sought a sentence of manslaughter, rather than murder.

At the start of the trial, prosecutor Nicole Frohn told how Mario N. had felt increasingly angry about the measures imposed to curb the pandemic, seeing them as an infringement on his rights.

“Since he knew he couldn’t reach the politicians responsible, he decided to kill him (Alex W.),” she said.

Mario N. turned himself in to police the day after the shooting.

German has relaxed most of its coronavirus rules, although masks are still required in some settings, such as public transport.