The Finance Minister has condemned the owner of a construction firm who is profiting from the wage subsidy scheme and says he has no intention of paying the money back.

Grant Robertson said the businessman’s actions were “out of step with most Kiwi businesses” which are abiding by the wage subsidy rules.

So far, more than $10 billion from the scheme has been paid out, benefiting 1.6 million workers.

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The Government has a team of more than 100 auditors combing through financial returns of businesses which have taken up the scheme, looking for evidence of fraud.

Meanwhile, Stuff reports that Black Steel owner Tony Black – who received $239,000 from the wage subsidy – has profited from the scheme.

He said the lockdown has cost him roughly $80,000 – meaning he has made an almost $160,000 profit at taxpayers’ expense.

And he’s not planning on giving the money back.

“I don’t believe there’s any legislation in place to enforce anyone to give it back. It was just a stupid idea from the beginning from our Labour Government,” he told Stuff.

“I’m at a loss as to why the Government gave away so much money in a lolly scramble.”

He said he’s going to use the money to pay his staff, and keep the rest as cashflow to ensure his workers still have a job in five months’ time.

“The amount of money I need to keep running is massive.”

In a statement to the Herald, Robertson said Black’s comments are disappointing.

“Mr Black’s comments seem somewhat confused and contradictory. The money is there to support the wages of his employees, and he says that is what he is going to use it for.”

Robertson also pointed out there are legal repercussions for business owners that abuse the wage scheme.

“As we have previously stated, all applicants for the wage subsidy know that they could be subject to audit and that anyone found to have provided false or misleading information can face penalties.”

Those found in breach could face up to seven years in jail, according to the Ministry of Social Development.

Robertson said 99.9 per cent of businesses which have taken up the scheme were behaving responsibly.

“We have had overwhelming feedback that the wage subsidy scheme was a lifeline for businesses as they have navigated this difficult period.”

Covid19.govt.nz: The Government’s official Covid-19 advisory website

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