The Australian Federal Police (AFP) has frozen more than 50 bank accounts suspected of defrauding the government’s early access to the retirement program put in place in response to the COVID-19 crisis.
- Approximately $ 200,000 has been frozen in more than 50 accounts
- Criminal syndicates believed to be behind suspected early access plan fraud
- Government program designed to help people in financial difficulty during the pandemic
Based on information gathered by the authorities, they believe that criminal unions – including some based abroad – are behind the fraudulent activity.
An AFP spokesperson said criminals were also targeting the JobSeeker and JobKeeper programs.
“About $ 200,000 has been held in these onshore bank accounts,” the spokesman said.
“AFP has an operation dedicated to the fight against fraud and is advanced in its investigation.
“AFP, under the leadership of Commissioner Reece Kershaw, sets fire to serious organized crime”.
It comes after Kershaw confirmed to a Senate inquiry into the government’s response to COVID-19 in May that AFP was investigating allegations of fraud, which the Australian tax authorities first learned of in late April.
At the time, he said that five search warrants had been executed and that a number of accounts had been frozen while investigations continued.
Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg did not specifically comment on the investigations, but told Sky News that those caught in the system fraud would be prosecuted.
Frydenberg said the government is taking the issue “very seriously”.
“Organized crime is a problem for the private and public sectors … especially when you have a program of this scale and size, I mean Jobkeeper is the largest one-time government program in Australian history “, did he declare.
“We have created a serious financial crime task force that brings together the Australian federal police, the ATO, the Department of Homes Affairs and others.
“We have also put in place a number of integrity measures to ensure that payments will not be made to compromised accounts, and there are risk-based random audits.”