How French Taxpayer Money Landed in Pockets of Daesh Fighters

© AP Photo / Lefteris PitarakisIn this file photo Daesh terrorists are seen after placing their group's flag on a hilltop at the eastern side of the town of Kobani, Syria
In this file photo Daesh terrorists are seen after placing their group's flag on a hilltop at the eastern side of the town of Kobani, Syria - Sputnik International
500,000 euros ($580,000) is the sum French jihadists who fought in the Daesh ranks received in social allowances over the last five years, a report by Le Figaro has revealed. According to French lawmaker Thierry Mariani, this is the result of flaws in the French social welfare system and the lack of government will to improve it.

Last week, Le Figaro ran a publication on the results of a probe by a group of French investigators that had exposed numerous fraud schemes related to social welfare benefits. In particular, the investigation has shown that 20 percent of French jihadists fighting in Syria and Iraq still received family allowances in the period between 2012 and 2017.

"We were like 'it just cannot be,' but, unfortunately, this is the truth and we are no longer framing this as an assumption," Thierry Mariani, a lawmaker from The Republicans party, told Sputnik France.

In October 2014, Mariani and his colleague Alain Marsaud proposed a resolution in the National Assembly calling for an investigation into the abuse of social benefits by those fighting among terrorists in Syria and Iraq.

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Marsaud, who is a former antiterrorism investigator, insisted that the list of those receiving social allowances should be checked by security services. However, the Interior Ministry, which was headed by Bernard Cazeneuve at the time, rejected the proposal as "absurd."

"We had anonymous informants, including tellers in social agencies, who had a lot of questions concerning certain people receiving allowances. Moreover, I’ve been to Syria for several times and there were people who found documents from French and even Tunisian nationals that proved that they received social allowances in France," Mariani said.

Fraud with social benefits was possible due to the assistance of jihadists’ family members; in particular they had the identity cards of their children and could continue to receive their allowances, a source in the investigative team told Le Figaro.

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In some cases, taxpayer money ending up in the pockets of jihadists isn’t only a problem for the government of those countries where they fight. For example, Salah Abdeslam, who worked as co-manager at a bar in Molenbeek, continued to receive unemployment benefits from the Belgian government. In particular, he used the money to help organize the terrorist attacks in Paris in November 2015 and in Brussels in March 2016, according to a report by The Wall Street Journal.

According to Mariani, frauds with French social benefits and allowances are also frequent beyond the case of jihadists, including among French nationals living abroad.

"I discovered that it is possible to stay abroad for year-and-a-half, respond to letters via email just like if you were in France and still receive allowances in France during these 18 months, without control. There are thousands who do that," the lawmaker said, adding that there is no need to invent complicated fraud schemes.

Criticizing the lack of regulation, Mariani provided an example of how simple it is to receive unemployment benefits, "You can be in the middle of nowhere in Syria or some African or Asian country, but all you need to do is to fill out the form online. There are too many unemployed people and social workers cannot deal with it. As a result, there is almost no control."

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