FirstFT: British watchdog attacks ‘inadequate’ efforts to tackle Covid loan fraud

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UK government measures to prevent fraud in its Covid-19 small business rebound loan program were ‘insufficient’ and it must do more to recover the £ 5 billion that was stolen, the watchdog says expenditure of Parliament.

The National Audit Office highlighted the focus the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy placed on the exploitation of the program by organized crime in a report released today, and raised the risk that petty fraudsters can escape impunity.

The rebound program, launched in May 2020, guaranteed bank loans of up to £ 50,000 to support businesses during the coronavirus pandemic. It was designed to get loans out as quickly as possible, with limited checking and lenders not doing any credit checks.

About a quarter of all UK businesses have applied, but official estimates suggest nearly £ 5bn of the £ 47bn disbursed could be lost through fraud.

Thanks for reading FirstFT Europe / Africa. Here’s the rest of today’s news – Jennifer

1. Opec + sticks to increasing oil supply Saudi Arabia, the de facto OPEC leader, has agreed to continue ramping up its monthly crude oil production following a charm offensive by the Biden administration, even as oil prices fell by almost 20% last week.

2. Nagel tipped to lead the German Bundesbank Joachim Nagel, a senior executive at the Bank for International Settlements, rose to pole position as head of Germany’s central bank in one of the first major appointments of the new coalition government, according to a person with direct knowledge folder.

3. Didi Chuxing struck off from New York The Chinese ridesharing group hit by Beijing’s regulatory crackdown on tech companies has said it will withdraw from the New York Stock Exchange and go public in Hong Kong, in an acceleration of China’s decoupling from U.S. capital markets.

4. The Chairman of Credit Suisse undertakes to review the remuneration of bankers António Horta-Osório pledged at the FT’s Global Banking Summit to revise his remuneration policy after a series of crises enraged investors and caused the bank’s share price to fall. The group will aim to create a cultural change that makes employees more responsible for risk management decisions.

5. Real Madrid and Barcelona seek to thwart € 2bn deal with La Liga Spain’s two top-performing clubs, along with Athletic Bilbao, have launched a late bid to thwart a € 2 billion injection from private equity group CVC with a counter-offer they claim to be economically superior.

The two biggest clubs in La Liga are still determined to try to launch a breakaway Super League with elite teams across Europe © Enric Fontcuberta / EPA / Shutterstock

Coronavirus digest

  • Global Stock Markets has seen volatile trading as investors and governments scramble to respond to the Omicron variant of the coronavirus.

  • Joe biden announced that free rapid tests would be available in the United States to help curb the spread of Omicron, a day after the first case of the variant was confirmed in the country.

  • The of the Federal Reserve The emergency lending facilities threaten to set a dangerous precedent that will increase pressure to fund all kinds of government projects, a senior incumbent has warned.

  • The Omicron variant has been linked to a substantial increase in re-infections in South Africa compared to previous waves.

  • Tools Needed For genome sequence are concentrated in rich countries, hampering global efforts to track coronavirus mutations.

The coming days

Inflation in Turkey Annual inflation is expected to cross the 20% threshold, according to a Reuters poll, which would be its highest rate since November 2018, when Turkey was reeling from a currency crisis.

Protocol talks in Northern Ireland UK Brexit Minister Lord David Frost and EU Brexit Commissioner Maros Sefcovic will continue negotiations on whether to trigger Article 16, the safeguard clause that would suspend checks on goods traveling to Ireland from North from the rest of Great Britain.

Economic data Purchasing Managers Index data is expected for the Eurozone, France, Germany, Italy, the UK and the US, where non-farm payrolls are expected to show 550,000 jobs were created last month while the unemployment rate fell to 4.5%.

UK listing rules enter into force Reforms to make the city more attractive to fast-growing tech and biotech companies come into force.

Presidential election in The Gambia The country is due to hold its first presidential election tomorrow since the ousting of longtime dictator Yahya Jammeh.

What else do we read

A gloomy winter awaits the poorest Britons Londoners fall into shortage as prices rise and a government decision to end a £ 20-per-week increase in universal credit begins to be felt. “For many people whose lives were already hard, things just got hardersaid Todd Benjamin, a retired CNN presenter who sits on the board of directors of social enterprise City Harvest.

Erdogan strengthens his grip on the Turkish economy The resignation of Finance Minister Lutfi Elvan did not surprise analysts. But his replacement by a loyal Recep Tayyip Erdogan has underscored just how much control of the country’s $ 795 billion economy is now in the hands of one man.

The problem of the disappearance of money Claer Barrett is all for exposing kids early on to money and payments, but what worries him is the invisibility of digital transactions. “Do the kids realize that real money is being spent, or do they think this ‘magic card’ just makes it possible? ” she asks.

Is Apple the last stock of memes? Confusing activity in the iPhone maker’s stocks this week has prompted policy makers to report an explosion in options trading, a hallmark of the “memes stocks” craze this year that is now linked to one of the most valued companies in the world.

Line graph of the number of Apple stock call options contracts traded each day (m) showing the increases in Apple options trading

FT / McKinsey Book of the Year Nicole Perlroth’s thought-provoking investigation into the computer arms race, This is how they tell me the end of the world, was named Financial Times and McKinsey Business Book of the Year for 2021. “I hope this award will spark [CEOs] to read this book and be careful, ”said FT editor-in-chief Roula Khalaf, who chaired the judges.

Thank you to everyone who took part in our survey yesterday. Forty-eight percent of those polled believed negotiators would not be able to resuscitate the Iran nuclear deal.

To travel

The pandemic has resulted in the cancellation of the 500-year-old German Christmas market in Rothenburg for the second year in a row. But the townspeople are determined to keep the festive spirit alive.

Rothenburg, Germany

“Nothing in the world, not even the fourth resurgence of the Covid-19 virus, can destroy the Christmas spirit that reigns 365 days a year in Rothenburg ob der Tauber,” says the tourist office © Matthew Cook

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