Two Malaysian nationals have been arrested over their alleged involvement in a syndicate suspected of defrauding the government of almost $500,000 through Covid-19 payment schemes.
The Malay pair, a 34-year-old woman and a 27-year-old man, were involved in fraudulently claiming more than $440,000 in Covid-19 disaster payments, police allege, through the creation of fake identities and schemes targeting those unable to make claims for themselves.
Both Malaysians have been charged with dealing with the proceeds of crime after police searched a western Sydney home on Thursday.
Services Australia General Manager Hank Jongen said the arrest should serve as a warning to those looking to prey on vulnerable people during times of crisis.
Two Malaysian nationals were arrested (pictured) for their alleged roles in a huge fraud syndicate preying on the vulnerable during last year’s Covid lockdowns
Police executed a search warrant in a western Sydney home, leading to the arrests of two Malay nationals (pictured)
‘We take fraud very seriously and have a responsibility to prevent people taking advantage of those who are genuinely in need,’ said Mr Jongen.
Investigations into the alleged syndicate continue.
Police will allege the fraud syndicate had been advertising assistance on social media during the pandemic, offering their services as ‘agents’ to help people claim the government payments.
Both the charged Malaysians were marched to squad cars by Australian Federal Police officers and members of a Services Australia taskforce (pictured)
Customers who employed the fraudulent online service provided identity documents to the ‘agents’, some reportedly paying up to $1,000 for the agents to facilitate their claims (pictured is arrest footage of the 27-year-old man)
Customers who employed the fraudulent online service provided identity documents to the ‘agents’, some reportedly paying up to $1,000 for the agents to facilitate their claims, police allege.
The full extent of the fraud syndicate’s reach across Australia has not yet been determined.
Operation Quantum started in September 2021 and was conducted by a joint Australian Federal Police and Services Australia taskforce targeting abuses of Australia’s welfare system.
The investigation into the alleged syndicate followed reports some payments were being claimed under false identities while other payments were being redirected to fraudsters’ bank accounts without the knowledge of the intended, legitimate recipients.
Officers raided a Lidcombe home in Sydney’s west before laying charges against the man and woman on Thursday.
Services Australia, who deliver Centrelink payments to Australians, have a taskforce aimed at stamping out welfare cheats
The Malaysian woman (pictured in arrest footage) has been charged with two counts of dealing in the proceeds of crime
‘The AFP and its partners will be relentless in identifying and prosecuting people who are trying to exploit the pandemic for their own greed,’ AFP Commander Chris Woods said.
The woman will face two counts of dealing in the proceeds of crime in court, while the man has so far been charged with just one count.
The maximum penalty for those offences is five years in jail.
The lump sum Covid-19 Disaster Payments were brought in during the height of lockdown in June 2021 to assist those whose income had been affected by state and territory restrictions.
The pair have been granted bail and will appear in Burwood Magistrates Court on June 16.
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