POLICE swooped on a Bewdley property as part of an operation into a suspected £5 million international tax credit and maternity allowance fraud.

Five people from across the West Midlands were arrested during yesterday's joint operation, carried out by West Midlands Police, HM Revenue and Customs and the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

Three men and a woman, all in their thirties, were arrested during dawn raids. HMRC investigators and police officers swooped on five residential and two business addresses in Bewdley, Tipton, Dudley, West Bromwich and Handsworth, seizing computers, business records, paperwork, mobile phones and cash.

They were bailed until September. Four vehicles were also searched, including a Mercedes and a Rover.

A fifth person was arrested last night, suspected of being involved in the alleged fraud. The 20-year-old man, from West Bromwich, was arrested by HMRC criminal investigators at Birmingham airport, as he arrived back into the UK from Eastern Europe.

Hhe was today being questioned under caution by HMRC and DWP officers.

Adrian Farley, Assistant Director of Criminal Investigation for HMRC, said: “We are investigating what we suspect is a major plot to rob the country of vast sums of public money by an organised crime gang operating between the UK and Europe.

“We are working closely with our law enforcement colleagues abroad to close what we believe is a serious criminal attack against the UK tax credits and benefits system.

“We would encourage anyone with information on tax evasion and fraud to contact the Customs Hotline on 0800 59 5000.”

Det Insp Neil Postins, of West Midlands Police’s Economic Crime Unit, said: “Around 30 of our officers have supported [the] operation, which has seen a number of individuals arrested and a significant quantity of items seized.

“Fraud cases are notoriously complex and law enforcement agencies must work together to bring offenders to justice. [The] operation is a testament to those close relationships and another step-forward in the fight against fraud.”