Alleged NDIS defrauder Mohammed Omar arrives at the Melbourne county court. Picture: Aaron Francis
Alleged NDIS defrauder Mohammed Omar arrives at the Melbourne county court. Picture: Aaron Francis

Organised crime linked to welfare fraud

ORGANISED criminals and major welfare fraudsters will be targeted at a secretive, state-of-the-art digital forensics laboratory to be launched in Brisbane today.

Government Services Minister Stuart Robert said the technically advanced centre - the second of its kind in Australia - would analyse digital evidence linked to suspected welfare fraud.

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"The department places great emphasis on protecting the integrity of taxpayer money through strong safeguards of the Centrelink and Medicare programs," he said.

Government Services Minister Stuart Robert says organised criminals and serious welfare fraudsters will be targeted at a state-of-the-art digital forensics laboratory to be launched in Brisbane. Picture Kym Smith
Government Services Minister Stuart Robert says organised criminals and serious welfare fraudsters will be targeted at a state-of-the-art digital forensics laboratory to be launched in Brisbane. Picture Kym Smith

"Fraud has become increasingly complex with fraudsters exploiting technological advances to commit crimes."

The Brisbane forensics lab will complement a Canberra lab operating since 2015 and boost the powers of other agencies including the Australian Federal Police and National Disability Insurance Agency to tackle fraud.

Mr Robert said the Government was "more serious than ever" about fighting welfare fraud with nearly 1000 cases reviewed in the past two months.

Regulators analysed and investigated more than 3300 cases of possible fraud across Centrelink, Medicare and Child Support programs in 2018-19.

Alleged NDIS defrauder Mohammed Omar arrives at the Melbourne county court. Picture: Aaron Francis
Alleged NDIS defrauder Mohammed Omar arrives at the Melbourne county court. Picture: Aaron Francis

Successful prosecutions have included Mohammed Omar, who was sentenced last month to four years in jail for defrauding the National Disability Insurance Scheme of more than $400,000.

About 80 staff work across the specialist fraud-busting division and in recent years have uncovered crimes worth tens of thousands of dollars.

Mr Robert said "advanced technology" in the labs would help investigators obtain and deliver crucial evidence and help the department's own integrity operations.

"The new facility will allow the department to continue to detect and disrupt organised crime activity and to stop the exploitation of vulnerable customers and communities," he said.

"The Canberra digital forensics team has already successfully contributed to over 50 investigations and analysed hundreds of seized devices, leading to numerous positive prosecution outcomes."