The reality behind the Sun’s hatchet job on Lithuanian ‘benefits scrounger’


by Sunny Hundal    
7:00 pm - January 20th 2013

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[See significant update at bottom]

The Sun newspaper today features the shocking (and rather typical for them) hatchet job on a Lithuanian actress called Natalia Belova.

They claim in the headline: ‘IMMIGRANT sponger living off handouts REFUSES full-time job’.

Thy also go on to deliberately deceive people on how much money shes gets on benefits, which Phil at AVPS has detailed here.

He points out:

But The Sun is deliberately lying. Belova does not receive an income (remember, they explicitly stated *income*) of £400 plus because she never sees two of the benefits payments. Until April, Housing Benefit is paid directly to her housing provider and the Council Tax payment bypasses her and goes to the relevant local authority. What is left, just £76, on top of her £125/week from her job gives her a *real* income before tax of £201 – about half of what The Sun’s says she pockets.

But the story is deceiving in another key way: actually Ms Belova is trying hard to get a job and has not exactly been sitting at home just ‘sponging’ off benefits.

We know this because we’ve been passed screenshots of her publicly available LinkedIn profile (now abruptly hidden) which details jobs she’s had and her CV.

Some screenshots (the language skills and education match up).

.

In other words, she is not refusing to work, she has in fact worked for a while and is trying to get work.

The whole story is one big stitch-up. (via @AnitaBellows)

UPDATE: The journalist who wrote this story up for the Sun is the same who was alleged to have faked the ‘I gave my 8 yr old daughter botox’ story. That says it all.

UPDATE 2: A reader got in touch with Natalia Belova earlier in the day through the Casting Call website about the allegations made in the Sun. Someone replied back (not 100% confirmed it is her but it’s very likely to be her) saying the Sun misrepresented her story.

She said:

If you work less than 16 hours pw are are still entitled for benefits.DWP is surely aware of the earnings.
I am a bit stressed now, as the Sun cut of a lot of what I said and the article got a different direction and some statements sound horrible as they are unfinished. Thank you for contacting me.

I have seen the message she sent and took a screenshot

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About the author
Sunny Hundal is editor of LC. Also: on Twitter, at Pickled Politics and Guardian CIF.
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Reader comments


As I’ve also noted, Ms Belova is also an aspiring actress:

http://zelo.tv/13TYZKX

and her acting CV can be easily Googled. Rich Peppiatt has pointed out that it’s inconceivable that the Sun didn’t know who she was.

The story appears to have come via agency INS, but again, its features department is fronted by Tom Hendry, a vastly experienced news editor who has done the job at three national titles:

http://zelo.tv/VT5P1u

It’s looking like the Sun knew who Natalija Belova was, and went ahead anyway. The comments under the article tell you all you need to know about why they did it.

The lady in question also has an acting past

http://www.castingcallpro.com/uk/view.php?uid=349956

Its worse than that. Apparently the Sun paid her to appear in the story…..

The amoral foreign billionaire scrounger Rupert pays an actress to peddle an immigrant benefit scrounger shocker…

5. Joe Fonebone

“The journalist who wrote this story up for the Sun…” ‘journalist’?! Hahahahahaha!

Funny how economic migration works in both ways. I left the UK and moved to Lithuania, mainly for cheaper accommodation (and also for a more beautiful country): http://andreasmoser.wordpress.com/2013/01/09/how-do-you-finance-your-travels/

“Readers are invited to email requests for corrections to sunchampion@the-sun.co.uk, or to send them to the Sun’s offices by post.”

http://fullfact.org/blog/Sun_on_Sunday_readers_champion_accuracy-3353

So migration is both ways… Who’d be surprised by that?

Meh, came across this today. It seemed pretty obvious to me as I was reading it that something wasn’t quite adding up, there’s no way she could have afforded that ‘lavish’ lifestyle with the benefits she was on. And then buried in one of the paragraphs towards the end it was revealed she has three credit cards. The woman’s probably up to her eyeballs in debt.

Surely then a case could be made in light of recent leveson enquiries to ensure a retraction or statement explaining their lies. Im no lawyer or press expert but if it is just simply made up then someone has to explain. Or has nothing really been learnt from leveson.

Just to make things that little bit weirder, she’s also the wife (and rumoured gay beard) of Leonid Rozhetskin, a Russian oligarch who disappeared in 2008.

See here: http://www.mailonsunday.co.uk/news/article-542412/KGB-plot-fears-London-oligarch-vanishes-traces-blood-mansion.html

The Sun is a filthy rag and all its readers are scum

I used to be able to rely on finding a discarded Sun whenever I travelled by bus to go to the supermarket to buy groceries. But times are hard so there are no discarded Sun papers nowadays and even a freebie Metro or two – an excellent paper for hard news – aren’t there on the buses.

@ A Non
Do you seriously think the Sun would print a retraction, and if it did, would it be bigger than a postage stamp?

@ Bob B
Why did you pick up The Sun on busses, was it as convenient rags to pick up dog muck? ;)

Dissident: “Why did you pick up The Sun on busses, was it as convenient rags to pick up dog muck?”

Occasionally, I feel the need to know what supposedly 7 million Sun readers are drawn to.

Btw Wikipedia posts press circulation figures:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_newspapers_in_the_United_Kingdom_by_circulation

The downward trend in press circulation must make grim reading for both owners and journalists. Most of us are getting instant news off the web nowadays. Relating comment and analysis, some very erudite, usually isn’t difficult to find by googling. No wonder so many good papers here and abroad are putting up subscription barriers.

I know what they’re drawn to Bob B – page 3, football, sudoku and mystic meg – they are where I work at any rate! Those are more or less the only things more or less trustworthy in that rag – oops, sorry, page 3 is photoshopped…

What I don’t understand is why this woman gave an interview to The Sun. Surely she she knew they’d stitch her up.

19. So Much for Subtlety

Thy also go on to deliberately deceive people on how much money shes gets on benefits, which Phil at AVPS has detailed here.

He points out:

But The Sun is deliberately lying. Belova does not receive an income (remember, they explicitly stated *income*) of £400 plus because she never sees two of the benefits payments. Until April, Housing Benefit is paid directly to her housing provider and the Council Tax payment bypasses her and goes to the relevant local authority. What is left, just £76, on top of her £125/week from her job gives her a *real* income before tax of £201 – about half of what The Sun’s says she pockets.

I notice that everyone but Sunny seems to be steering very carefully between different choices of words to give different impressions. She may end up with half of what the Sun said in her pocket, but that is not the point. I pay her Housing allowance. Do I get to live in her house? No. She does. It is not cash in pocket, but it is a benefit that goes to Ms Belova. In the same way that if my work gave me a free home, it would be a work benefit and count as part of my salary package. At least it would when I was considering the job.

She said:

If you work less than 16 hours pw are are still entitled for benefits.DWP is surely aware of the earnings.

So I take it then, without wanting to read the article, that the Sun is right – she is not refusing work, she is refusing full time work that would cost her her benefits? I don’t see where the Sun is wrong this time.

1. Tim Fenton

As I’ve also noted, Ms Belova is also an aspiring actress:

And that makes all the difference.

20. So Much for Subtlety

8. Dissident

So migration is both ways… Who’d be surprised by that?

It should be obvious to everyone that this is not a story about migration. Rather the Sun has tried to draw attention to the unhappiness British people feel about giving foreigners benefits. The welfare state is not possible in ethnically or racially mixed societies. The public will not accept it. What the Sun has done is very cleverly picked a photogenic White girl. Not the usual Afghan or Jamaican – because the accusations of racism would be too loud. But racism is certainly what it is. People will pay for the poor of their own community but not for the poor of others.

This is yet another milestone in the slow death of the welfare state. You should remember it.

11. Zarathustra

Just to make things that little bit weirder, she’s also the wife (and rumoured gay beard) of Leonid Rozhetskin, a Russian oligarch who disappeared in 2008.

Yeah because we should be forcing the working poor to pay taxes so the wives of Russian billionaires can live in some style and comfort.

21. Just Visiting

Sunny
Making this point seems a bit weak:

> Belova does not receive an income (remember, they explicitly stated *income*) of £400 plus because she never sees two of the benefits payments,,,

The fact that her accomodation etc is paid for her, does of course mean that the money does not literally pass through her bank.

But to compare her financial situation with someone working and having to pay rent – then it is only sensible to use the word income.

It would be better to focus on the central claim the Sun make:

> ‘IMMIGRANT sponger living off handouts REFUSES full-time job’.

and focus on the evidence that disproves that.

22. Just Visiting

Sunny

You wrote:

> actually Ms Belova is trying hard to get a job … We know this because we’ve been passed screenshots of her publicly available LinkedIn profile

Since it’s the work of 5 minutes to put up a LinkedIn profile: it seems thin to make this count as proof of ‘trying hard’ to get a job.

Desperate stuff.

If the government started to pay my mortgage/rent and council tax from tomorrow, we would all agree this is income.

It might be income-in-kind, but it is income nonetheless by any common-sense definition.

Those who are not milking the state have to pay their own rent.

24. outlawjournalist

…apart from the multitude of oiks who borrow well above their means to buy second homes, which they then rent out at exorbitant rates to those not fortunate enough to be on the property ladder. Your post implies prejudice against the unemployed – it’s the greed of the middle classes which has ruined the housing market, not the banks or individuals ‘milking the state’.

@ SMFS

Interesting, are you trying to say the majority of British people are indeed racist? And that Rupert ‘the Hacker’ Murdock is not so subtly & cynically pushing that button in the average Sun reader?

You also state this is yet one more milestone in the death of the welfare state – hmmm doubtful. What you actually mean there, is that article is one more propaganda piece demonising welfare for the 99% – that ‘welfare’ should instead go to the 1% through a large slice of rent, tax breaks, subsidies, PFI profits etc…

As far as I’m concerned, welfare will stay alive & well for those that accumulate wealth with impunity…

26. Philip Arlington

Come off it, of course her housing and council tax benefits are part of her income. They are money and they meet her expenses. I have to pay for housing and council tax out of my income.

These semantic games show that at best you are as happy to misrepresent things as those you criticise.

Everyone needs to wake up to the reality that benefits are too generous, and that this is undermining the economy and perpetuating the underclass. My dad was unemployed several times when I was a child, but we always got by – but then mum and dad didn’t smoke and drink.

My sister has been on disability benefit for years even though she isn’t disabled by any common sense definition, and she wastes money on rubbish every week. What is worse, her partner just lost his full time job and their combined income actually went up!

The current state of affairs is an endless kick in the teeth to people with a good work ethic, no wonder so many of them emigrate.

The income does not matter: what matters is what is left to live on. This woman is not on benefit for the unemployed, at least not according to the Sun. Neither JSA nor IS is listed in her income. All the benefits they claim she is getting are available to the low paid.

In addition there is a clear implication that she is getting her wages on top of her benefit. That maximum one can get if on means tested benefits is £20 per week. That means that what she has to live in if she is in receipt of a means tested benefit (which I do not think is the case) is £99.40 to keep her and a child.

It is true that she does not see the housing element, but those in work on low pay are also entitled to that. Similarly with the council tax. The “clothing allowance” is a straightforward lie.

The whole article is lies of omission and commission and insinuation. It is a disgrace.

If this person is the one in the casting site she also completed an honours degree in business administration in 2011: hardly the profile of a scrounger.

SMFS: ‘The welfare state is not possible in ethnically or racially mixed societies.’

The last half century of European history seems to disagree, but why let the facts get in the way of an opportunity for you to pass off your own racism onto the rest of us.

Fiona: ‘If this person is the one in the casting site she also completed an honours degree in business administration in 2011: hardly the profile of a scrounger.’

That’s the strongest piece of evidence in favour of her being a ‘scrounger’. ;)

first of all natalia belova is 100% RUSSIAN name!!! she is just a lithuanian passport holder who most likely doesn’t even speak that language.
however, i know one 39y/o british lady who spent all her life on benefits without being employed even for one day . she is simply continuing her parents life style. is that normal??

Well we are talking about the sun! A paper read by ill informed little englanders who see no further than the little towns they inhabit!

Sunny, though I dislike the ‘heavy rhetoric’ style of the tabloids, the facts remain:

1) Why are we paying Ms Belova’s housing benefit?
2) Why are we covering the council tax for Ms Belova?

She is an EU migrant who has made the decision to live in the UK. Why is the British taxpayer liable in any way, shape or form for her living costs, regardless of her intention to work? Reform is vital here, especially during a time of austerity.

Yes, but the left being what it is these days this will provoke far less outrage than a silly piece by Burchill in The Observer

33. Chaise Guevara

@ 32 Jonathan

“Yes, but the left being what it is these days this will provoke far less outrage than a silly piece by Burchill in The Observer”

Whataboutery. Burchill’s piece was deeply unpleasant, not “silly”. And stories about alleged tabloid spinning are a bit Dog Bites Man.

1) Why are we paying Ms Belova’s housing benefit?
2) Why are we covering the council tax for Ms Belova?

She has worked in this country for several years and paid taxes. Why shouldn’t she get something back out of that if she can’t temporarily find a better paying job?

Until someone can get to interview Ms Belova we will not know the degree of misrepresentation. A job for you Sunny?

However the disagreement on this thread alone over whether Housing and Council Tax benefits are income, is an excellent example of how the same facts can have two totally different interpretations.

@26

“Everyone needs to wake up to the reality that benefits are too generous, and that this is undermining the economy and perpetuating the underclass. My dad was unemployed several times when I was a child, but we always got by – but then mum and dad didn’t smoke and drink.

My sister has been on disability benefit for years even though she isn’t disabled by any common sense definition, and she wastes money on rubbish every week. What is worse, her partner just lost his full time job and their combined income actually went up!”

Why is there an automatic assumption that all benefit claimants smoke and drink?

My mum brought 3 of us up after my dad died. She had to rely on benefits but neither smoked nor drank and this argument is just lazy rhetoric.

As for your sister – if she is claiming fraudulently, surely you have a duty to report her to the DWP. If her partner has lost his job and their income has risen, you will be able to tell us all what he was earning before and the benefits they now receive that has meant they are now better off – wont you ?!

I am disabled and live on benefits and its no picnic I can assure you. If ever I was in the position to earn my own money again instead of relying on benefits, I would jump at the chance!

Oh and whilst I am on benefits, I neither smoke nor drink nor gamble – not even the lottery!

the whole issue of whether housing benefit is an income could be resolved by the state paying the landlord to a subsistence rate so the property can be maintained and the mortgage paid, and making it a crime punishable by 5 years on conviction to evict in the cricumstances. This limited for 1 year.

38. So Much for Subtlety

25. Dissident

Interesting, are you trying to say the majority of British people are indeed racist? And that Rupert ‘the Hacker’ Murdock is not so subtly & cynically pushing that button in the average Sun reader?

Racist is perhaps a bit harsh. Every community, every functioning community, understands the difference between Us and Them. They will pay for One of Us. They do not like to pay for One of Them. I doubt Murdoch is doing anything except trying to lift circulation and this sort of story is what the British public knows is happening. They will buy it.

You also state this is yet one more milestone in the death of the welfare state – hmmm doubtful. What you actually mean there, is that article is one more propaganda piece demonising welfare for the 99% – that ‘welfare’ should instead go to the 1% through a large slice of rent, tax breaks, subsidies, PFI profits etc…</i.

We will never see taxes cut in this country. Every time they go up, they go up forever. So no. There will still be welfare in the sense of ever-growing levels of cronyism and corruption, but there will never be a reduction in the taxes paid by the wealthy or anyone else.

As far as I’m concerned, welfare will stay alive & well for those that accumulate wealth with impunity…

If they have the connections. We will end up more like Brazil or Mexico where if you have got friends in the government, you can make money. Not otherwise.

28. Feodor

The last half century of European history seems to disagree, but why let the facts get in the way of an opportunity for you to pass off your own racism onto the rest of us.

Actually the last half century of European history prove me right. Welfare was common in highly homogeneous societies like Sweden. It was less so in less homogeneous countries like Italy or Spain – and America, with its racial divide, has never seen a large socialist movement or a proper welfare state. Nor has Brazil.

There is actually social science on this subject.

Also notice what Sweden is doing. Now it has a large immigrated population, the Social Democrats are out of office and the welfare state is slowly being dismantled. The rule holds.

34. Sunny Hundal

She has worked in this country for several years and paid taxes. Why shouldn’t she get something back out of that if she can’t temporarily find a better paying job?

She is already getting a lot back – she is living here and not in Russia.

39. Tubby Isaacs

The income (in the form of housing benefit) is quoted and linked with her wonderful lifestyle.

Surely the fact that she doesn’t actually receive that cash is important? And the article is bollocks. What the government are paying for is her flat. Not her designer clothes.

40. Tubby Isaacs

“Also notice what Sweden is doing. Now it has a large immigrated population, the Social Democrats are out of office and the welfare state is slowly being dismantled. The rule holds”

Oh good. I trust the “Labour important immigrants to win votes” bollocks can be put to bed.

You don’t have to dismantle the welfare state. Build more social housing. That was good enough after the war, and it’s good enough now.

well, if thats whats what me tax brass is going on, i fancy a bit of a go on both.

Shouldn’t this be litigated as provocation and inflammatory etc.. Perhaps alerting The Guardian Newspaper and have them expose the duplicity of The Sun?

Can this not be conceived to be a deliberate act of incitement during “austerity”

Should we not contact the media, radio stations etc.. and alert, put this on You Tube videos and Face book sites, specially the nasty ones about scroungers, LOL

I read the story in the Daily mail. It seemed to be typical Tory propaganda.

The reporter sounds as though he came from ‘The News Of The World’. Maybe that’s where he learnt his reporting skills

SMFS: ‘Actually the last half century of European history prove me right…’

You have a real problem of conflating correlation with causation, especially when such conflations support whatever hackneyed argument you’re advancing.

The fact of the matter is that most European – esp. most central European – countries are ethnically mixed and have been so for the duration of the welfare state. Even Britain is ethnically mixed among what would doubtless be called its ‘homogeneous population’ – I’m sure you’d dismiss differences between English, Scots, Welsh and Irish as inconsequential because they undermine your argument, though they’re broadly similar to those that can be found in Spain, which you cite as an example.

The reasons the welfare state is being rolled back are economic. The not being willing to pay for ‘them’ is just a narrative at times used to justify this, one which has limited traction among the general populace. Policy-makers might employ said narrative (though it’s not the main rationale by far), but the welfare state is not being dismantled because of it. Ergo, that is the difference between correlation and causation.

With amusement, I note that you’re now saying the US has never seen a ‘proper welfare state’, because a few weeks ago in a debate with me you were adamant that the US could be counted among the social-democratic welfare states which had utilised sterilisation. But who needs consistency, ay?

And you’re wrong about Brazil too, btw.

47. Cheryl Jones

Whilst the idea that the Sun may have exaggerated or even stepped over the edge on a “STORY” would not surprise anyone, I think a couple of hairs have been split in this article. Housing Benefit and Council Tax benefit may not come into the hands of the lady in question, being paid directly, but it is still money which is paid for or on her behalf. It defrays expenses she would otherwise have to pay from the money paid directly to her. To describe it, as a shorthand expression, as “income” is not really misrepresenting anything.

@ 26. Philip Arlington:

Quote: “Everyone needs to wake up to the reality that benefits are too generous, and that this is undermining the economy and perpetuating the underclass. My dad was unemployed several times when I was a child, but we always got by – but then mum and dad didn’t smoke and drink.”

——–

Well, unless you grew up before 1911, your parents were either claiming unemployment benefit (and were thus useless parasites living off the government teat), had kindly relatives, were criminals, or were happy to live and starve along with their children on the streets. With no welfare or substantial savings (which exempt you from benefits) it doesn’t matter whether you smoke and drink or not, you WILL still starve – albeit slightly more slowly.

——–

My sister has been on disability benefit for years even though she isn’t disabled by any common sense definition, and she wastes money on rubbish every week. What is worse, her partner just lost his full time job and their combined income actually went up!

——–

Ahhhh, “common sense”. The last refuge of the right when faced with reality. Naturally, when I need to understand something about disabilities, I don’t refer to the informed view of relevant medical professionals, or read relevant published papers, I just ask the person sat next to me on the #147 what seems like “common sense” to them.

Furthermore, it is obvious that in any modern society random members of the pubic have a right to decide what people may spend using money received from welfare, or that the state should have the right to monitor the routine purchases of private individuals who are suspected of no wrongdoing whatsoever, merely because they happen to be in a position where they need to claim benefits (i.e. having children, being in a low paying job). Naturally in the interests of fairness, this should apply to all recipients, including parents, pensioners and students as well and workers on low pay, the unemployed and disabled, and those on maternity/paternity leave.

Just thinking about that extent of moral policing and surveillance should make any right winger wet themselves in excitement.

——–

The current state of affairs is an endless kick in the teeth to people with a good work ethic, no wonder so many of them emigrate.

——–

Yes, because it’s all about work ethic and benefit scrounging parasitical sub-human scum like your sister, not 5 years of recession alternating with stagflation and slave-labour having destroyed millions (literally) of jobs, mass outsourcing, contracting and mass redundancies in the public sector. Godammit, Jim, I’m a conservative, not someone trying to help – why don’t we just blame the victims?

48

Strongly agree.

50. Tubby Isaacs

47@Cheryl

I agree with you that you could describe that money as income, but I think you do have to make it clear it goes straight to the landlord.

The implication with these stories is always that the person in question is buying designer clothes or big televisions at our expense. They aren’t.

51. Robin Levett

@Cheryl #47:

Housing Benefit and Council Tax benefit may not come into the hands of the lady in question, being paid directly, but it is still money which is paid for or on her behalf. It defrays expenses she would otherwise have to pay from the money paid directly to her. To describe it, as a shorthand expression, as “income” is not really misrepresenting anything.

Remember that 80% of those who recieve HB are in work. When the incomes of those in work who receive HB (and in particular Housing Allowance) are stated including HB received, then is the time to include it in this kind of calculation. Routinely, however, that does not happen; “as shorthand”, the person’s monthly or annual wage is cited.


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