Brits living in 70 different countries were caught illegally claiming millions of pounds in disability allowance, tax credits and other handouts last year.

The full extent of worldwide welfare scams is revealed in figures released by the DWP’s crack new international anti-fraud iteam.

It helped to recover £1.1billion in overpayments of benefits at home and abroad, officials confirmed.

More than 5,000 fraudsters were prosecuted last year and a further 5,000 were given on-the-spot penalties and forced to pay back the stolen cash.

With 3.8 million British citizens living outside the UK, the fraud network are playing an increasingly vital role in tackling scams from far-flung lands.

They included Abigail Tetteh-Lartey, 54, of Middlesex, who falsely claimed benefits after stealing the identities of four Ghanaian citizens who left the UK many years earlier.

She also created three British identities and bagged enough cash to create a £1 million property empire.

She was convicted of 14 counts of fraud involving £653,000 and jailed for four-and-a-half years.

Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey said: “The DWP uncovers thousands of benefit fraud cases every year and our international reach means our approach to tackling fraud isn’t just limited tothe UK.

“Our specialist teams work continually to establish new intelligence sources across the globe and catch the fraudsters who divert taxpayers’ month from people in need.”

In another case, Elizabeth Davy, 64, of Cornwall, claimed disability living allowance for several years – and her husband pocketed cash for acting as her full-time carer.

But investigators found she travelled regularly to Spain, spending long spells alone and owned a house there.

Both husband and wife were fined and had to repay the £22,600 they stole in full.

Frances Pedder, 55, of Aylesbury, Bucks, had a residence in Portugal, and claimed a raft of benefits, including disability living allowance and working tax credits.

DWP chiefs found she had taken over 70 separate flights in under five years, including to USA, Paris and South Africa.

She was found guilty of fraud, fined £12,500 and ordered to pay a victim surcharge of face a year in jail. The £28,000 she defrauded was recovered in full.

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