Spies in the sky foil farm fraud

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The Independent Online
Satellite photographs of farm fields were used to uncover fraudulent claims by a farmer who falsely demanded money for growing oilseed rape under the European common agriculture policy, the National Audit Office told MPs in a report. The satellite images showed that the field contained peas instead of oilseed rape, which earn less from the CAP, and after a site check, the farmer's claims were reduced from pounds 43,700 to pounds 27,300 - a saving of pounds 16,400.

In another case, a farmer applied for oilseed subsidy on 78 hectares of land but he had also claimed for a different crop on seven hectares of the same land. The ministry decided not to prosecute because the fine would be minimal, but recovered the grant of pounds 15,733.

There were 7,220 cases where farmers' claims were reduced or rejected after spot checks. These include the case of two brothers who filed a joint claim for sheep annual premium for 100 animals but inspection showed they owned only 18 sheep. They were prosecuted and fined pounds 3,000.

The checks on the beef special premium scheme cost more than pounds 1m but uncovered irregularities valued at pounds 463,500. Colin Brown