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German police target suspected Islamists over virus benefits fraud

German police seized some 61,000 euros during the raids [Getty]

Date of publication: 8 May, 2020

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German police conducted raids on homes and vehicles belonging to suspects linked to 'the Salafist scene', accused of embezzling around 94,000 euros in state coronavirus payouts.
German police targeted a network of suspected Islamists in Berlin on Thursday over allegations they fraudulently obtained almost 100,000 euros in state payouts set up for the coronavirus crisis.

Some 100 police officers searched 11 homes and five vehicles linked to five suspects "belonging to the Salafist scene", police said in a statement, referring to ultra-conservative Islamists.

The suspects, accused of embezzling around 94,000 euros (£82,400), belonged to the "hard core" of attendees at the Fussilet former Islamist mosque.

The mosque is believed to have harboured several people classified as dangerous by German authorities, including Tunisian Anis Amri who killed 12 in a truck ramming attack against a Berlin Christmas market in 2016.

Among the five suspects targeted Thursday is a former associate of Amri's and an imam, Berlin's Tagesspiegel daily reported.

The group is believed to have "acquired in a fraudulent manner economic aid offered by the city of Berlin" to cushion the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, prosecutors said.

Police seized some 61,000 euros during the raids.

In the depths of the virus crisis, German authorities quickly carried out financial transfers to companies, freelancers and the self-employed to keep them afloat.

But the laxer controls have subsequently led to numerous fraud allegations.

A frequent trick by fraudsters was setting up fake websites to apply for the financial aid, aiming to collect real companies' data - which they would then use for real applications and divert the handouts.

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