Govt will 'come down hard' on those who abuse Covid-19 Temporary Relief Fund: Shanmugam

SINGAPORE'S Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam has warned that the government will "come down hard" on people who abuse the Covid-19 Temporary Relief Fund.

"We take this very seriously," he said during an online "door-stop" interview via Zoom on Monday, adding that culprits will face a "heavy" jail sentence if they are found to have committed the fraud.

People should thus "think twice" before attempting it, said Mr Shanmugam who is also the Minister of Law.

His warning came after reports on Sunday of police investigating a 41-year-old Singaporean man for possible abuse of the Covid-19 Temporary Relief Fund.

The fund gives a one-time cash aid of S$500 to lower to middle-income Singaporeans and permanent residents facing hardships in the current coronavirus crisis due to job or income loss.

Mr Shanmugam said the police is looking into "a couple" of cases, with "more in the pipeline", but it is still premature to comment on them.

He added that most of the individuals who have applied for help under the Temporary Relief Fund have been legitimate applicants and in need of financial assistance.

The alleged cheating cases will not change or delay the application process, or how quickly the money is disbursed, Mr Shanmugam said.

The Singapore government will also not take any action against culprits who have returned the money, even though technically they have committed an offence, he noted.

Abuse of the fund may constitute an offence of cheating and will be immediately referred to the police for investigation. The offence of cheating carries an imprisonment for a term of up to 10 years, and a fine.