COVID-19: Businesses that defrauded wage subsidy scheme could face criminal charges

The Government is being urged to hunt down businesses that may have defrauded the COVID-19 wage subsidy scheme. 

An official audit of the $13 billion wage subsidy said it was a "significant achievement" that gave urgent support to struggling businesses, but Newshub can reveal some could soon face criminal charges. 

While auditor-general John Ryan said the wage subsidy was well managed, some businesses may have rorted the system. 

"It is still possible that ineligible businesses received payments and they might not have all been identified," Ryan said.

He's urging the Ministry of Social Development (MSD) to hunt them down. 

"Prioritise prosecutions," said Ryan. 

MSD is investigating 550 cases of possible fraud. The ministry told Newshub it's currently considering several civil and criminal prosecutions. 

But bad apples aside, the subsidy is being hailed as a success. Waihi Beach Hotel owner Amy Vidler got $390,000 in subsidies to help her pay up to 41 staff across numerous lockdowns. 

"The only reason we have a business today is because of the subsidy," she told Newshub.

"I would definitely rate it a 10," Vidler said.

Watch the full story above.