Three people charged with exploiting COVID-19 superannuation early release scheme

The Australian Federal Police (AFP) anti-fraud Taskforce Iris has charged three people with allegedly submitting false claims to gain early access to superannuation under the Government's early release of superannuation (ERS) measure, designed to assist Australians impacted by COVID-19.

The alleged offending was identified through lines of enquiry undertaken by a separate Taskforce investigation and following initial analysis, the matter was endorsed as a priority operation by the Australian Taxation Office (ATO)-led Serious Financial Crime Taskforce (SFCT).

This brings the total number of people charged by the AFP Taskforce Iris to seven.

Police will allege the group submitted several fraudulent applications, claiming to be other superannuation fund-holders, to attempt to access early release of superannuation payments totaling $113,500.

AFP Northern Command Taskforce Iris investigators, with the support of the Queensland Police Service, ATO and Services Australia officers, executed search warrants at five addresses in South East Queensland, in the suburbs of Morayfield, Worongary, Balmoral, Eagleby and Burpengary East on Thursday, 6 August 2020.

During searches of the properties, officers seized a number of items, including numerous electronic devices that police will allege are of significant probative value for the investigation.

A 41-year-old woman was refused bail and appeared in the Southport Magistrates Court on 7 August 2020, charged with:

  • Conspiring to dishonestly obtain or deal in personal financial information, contrary to section 480.4 of the Criminal Code 1995 (Cth). The maximum penalty for this offence is five years imprisonment.

A 41-year-old woman is expected to appear in the Pine Rivers Magistrates Court on 2 September 2020, and a 36-year-old woman is expected to appear in the Southport Magistrates Court on 4 September 2020, each charged with:

  • Conspiring to dishonestly obtain or deal in personal financial information, contrary to section 480.4 of the Criminal Code 1995 (Cth);
  • Conspiring to receive a designated service using a false customer name, contrary to section 140.1 of the Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorism Financing Act 2006 (Cth); This carries a maximum penalty of two years imprisonment.
  • Conspiring to give false or misleading information to a Commonwealth entity, contrary to section 137.1(1) of the Criminal Code 1995 (Cth). This offence carries a maximum penalty of imprisonment for 12 months.

AFP Deputy Commissioner Brett Pointing said the AFP and its partners remain committed to identifying and prosecuting anyone who tries to exploit the system for their own greed and access money for which they are not eligible.

"Make no mistake. If you try to steal the nest eggs of hard-working Australians, we will find you, and charge you," he said.

"The AFP works around the clock to disrupt and charge offenders who are defrauding the public."

"These arrests are a timely reminder for Australians to make sure their personal financial details are secure - don't be an easy target for criminals."

Serious financial crimes affecting the Government's GOVID-19 stimulus measures are a priority for the ATO-led joint-agency SFCT, of which the AFP is a member.

The SFCT brings together the knowledge, resources and experience of relevant law enforcement and regulatory agencies to identify and address the most serious and complex forms of financial crime.

ATO Deputy Commissioner and Chief of the SFCT Will Day says this activity sends a clear message that the SFCT partner agencies are committed to tackling any illegal behaviour and protecting the Government's COVID-19 stimulus measures.

"This action demonstrates the SFCT's ability to deliver a whole of government response to target suspected crimes affecting the COVID-19 stimulus measures. It sends a clear message to the community that we do bring those who exploit the tax and super system to account for their actions. We have robust systems in place that stop this sort of crime – quickly, and decisively."

The SFCT includes the ATO, AFP, Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission (ACIC), Attorney-General's Department (AGD), Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (AUSTRAC), Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC), Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions (CDPP), Services Australia and Department of Home Affairs, including Australian Border Force (ABF).

The AFP's anti-fraud Taskforce Iris is working closely with partner agencies to safeguard Government measures designed to assist the community and ensure the money goes where it is needed.

Anyone with information about suspected fraud of Government benefits can make a report via the Reporting Fraud page on the Services Australia website, or by calling the Australian Government Services Fraud Tip-off Line on 13 15 24.

Anyone who believes their identity has been compromised or misused can contact Services Australia's Scams and Identity Theft Helpdesk on 1800 941 126.

Tip-offs about taxation or superannuation matters can also be made to the Australian Taxation Office website via the Making a tip-off page or by calling the ATO on 1800 060 062.

Editor's Note

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