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Germany

Welfare Recipients Exposed with Luxury Car, Yacht

In discoveries that will surely cement plans to tighten welfare regulations, two German welfare recipients have been exposed as possessing luxurious cars and yachts.

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No more social welfare under palm trees.

Local authorities in Goslar, Lower Saxony said they had caught a 31-year-old welfare recipient who owned three cars. A spokesman said the man had bought one of the cars for €44,500 in cash a week ago. Another "suspected" welfare recipient, who owned both an apartment and a yacht, was exposed in Eschborn near Frankfurt/Main.

Both men are likely to soon face charges of fraud, and they would be wise to expect the press to come hound them too, just as they have "Florida Rolf."

"Florida Rolf" has had Germany up-at-arms for the past two weeks, since the Bild tabloid first wrote about the 64-year-old German pensioner who lives off a heady €1,900 ($2070) in German social welfare in Miami Beach.

Not a beach

Rolf John, who is certified as handicapped, has lived in the United States for 25 years. He countered newspaper reports that he lived in an apartment with a beach view in a German talk show on Tuesday. He said he lived in a normal apartment that looked out on a skyscraper and that the higher cost of living in the U.S. meant he only had $200 left each month after paying his rent.

The general outrage over "Florida Rolf" has resulted in speedy action on the part of the government.

"Social welfare under palm trees won't exist in the future," Social Minister Ulla Schmidt let it be known on Tuesday. The Social Democrat presented draft legislation to the cabinet to ban social welfare payments to Germans abroad except in extreme circumstances.

She said she assumed that "Florida Rolf" would no longer be able to claim social welfare after the amendment to the current regulations passed.

It's no secret that Germany is in poor economic shape and the once generous social welfare state in dire need of reform. The country's politicians have been wrangling with revamps to the beleaguered healthcare and pensions systems for most of the past year. Germans can expect to have to tighten their belts further. "Florida Rolf" was just the straw that broke the camels back.

Last year 959 Germans living abroad received a total of €4.3 million in social welfare payments.

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