in court, the Covid aid scam on social networks

In a basketball jersey in Dubai, he addresses his subscribers on Snapchat. “There are 4,500 euros to take. You are an entrepreneur, you send a message on whatsapp, in 48 hours. Let’s go for the show”.

The bearded, tanned man who speaks in the video on the smartphone shown on the screen of the courtroom is standing in the box of the Paris Criminal Court.

“PA7”, a 24-year-old ex-influencer, is suspected with six other people of having defrauded, up to several million euros, the solidarity fund for companies linked to the Covid-19 crisis.

This “so simple” scam, worthy of “a six-year-old child”, which he recognizes but whose amounts he disputes, began in March 2020 in the Paris region, at the time of the first confinement, he declares in response to questions from the Paris court.

Delivery driver, he was “unemployed” at the time and earned “906 euros per month”. He sees an “article on Facebook” concerning aid to companies whose activity has been slowed down or even stopped, by government decisions.

He clicks on the “link”, fills out the form with false information, passes off his own business as “entertainment”.

“I received 6,000 euros in retroactivity in 48 hours. So for me, the calculation was quickly done”, summarizes the sturdy defendant in a black polo shirt, hair cut in a brush. “I saw an opportunity and grabbed my phone to promote.”

He then has 3,000 subscribers on Youtube, where he makes “TMAX videos”, very powerful scooters.

“I first made requests for my close friends and when I started to collect commissions of 1,500 euros, I saw that it was lucrative, that it was a business”, adds- he.

– “Accounting” –

According to surveys, he then puts up advertisements, flyers, videos, on social networks, multiplies requests with inflated turnover and false areas of activity by taking 40 or even 70% commission.

The advertisements are signed “the Covid team” and mention “four full-time people”. A team which even had, for a time, “offices” but whose defendant refuses to name the names, except one, repeating not to “remember”.

“Given your age, we are not yet in memory loss”, slips, sarcastic, the president Isabelle Prévost-Desprez.

In total, the investigation established that the team had submitted, between March 2020 and July 2021, 695 fraudulent requests from self-employed and auto-entrepreneurs, for 33.8 million euros claimed, including 7.5 million actually paid.

This theoretically makes a profit of more than 3 million euros in commissions, underlines the president.

“It’s your calculator”, protests “PA7”, qualifying these figures as “anything” and claiming to have all his “accounting” in his phone.

The magistrate points out to him that he refused to give his code, then set “conditions”.

“I have a private life”, rebuffs the defendant to the 51,000 subscribers on Snapchat, repeating not wanting to “involve friends”.

– “Number one of the Covid aids” –

In December 2020, “PA7” left France for Dubai – because of “threats of racketeering”, he explains.

He who already had a high lifestyle in France continues his “business”, while posting photos of him in front of a luxury car or a swimming pool.

The court broadcasts four videos filmed from the emirate. “A year and a half ago, I was number one in Covid aid in France,” he says in one. “I manage to bring down partial unemployment in 27 days”, in another. “Who will spit on 4,500 euros? It’s hard in France”, in a third.

With always the formula: “Let’s go for the show” (Let’s go for the show).

In July 2021, he was arrested by the Dubai authorities, extradited to France and placed in detention.

According to the prosecution, “disbursement” circuits have also been set up to launder the money, in particular by some of his co-defendants.

His 22-year-old “best friend”, who followed him to Dubai and is sitting next to him in the cubicle, is due for questioning on Tuesday.

The main defendant faces ten years in prison.

The trial is due to end Thursday evening.

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