A former federal MP has been hit with 30 charges over his alleged involvement in a multimillion-dollar migration fraud.
Controversial former Labor MP Craig Thomson has been hit with more than 30 charges, accused of being the primary facilitator in a multimillion-dollar migration fraud.
The 57-year-old was arrested by Australian Federal Police officers at his Terrigal home on the NSW Central Coast on Wednesday morning following an investigation also involving the Australian Border Force, AUSTRAC, the Australian Taxation Officer and Department of Home Affairs.
Officers will allege they found evidence pointing to an alleged scheme which intended to defraud legitimate visa programs after an initial ABF investigation into allegations of significant visa and migration fraud, dating back to August 2019.
Thomson is accused of allegedly facilitating more than 130 fraudulent visa applications over four years, focusing on the food service and regional farm worker industries.
According to the AFP, more than $2 million was gained through the alleged dealings.
Nine search warrants were first conducted by AFP and ABF officers on July 21 at properties in Wamberal, Terrigal and Copacabana on the Central Coast, Revesby and Rockdale in Sydney, as well as East Maitland in NSW and Bundaberg West in Queensland.
Additional search warrants were conducted on Thomson’s Terrigal home and a Tuggerah property on Wednesday.
He was charged with a total of 30 fraud charges, including one count of providing false documents and false or misleading information relating to non-citizens, 19 counts of providing false documents and false or misleading information etc. relating to non-citizens and one count of referring a lawful non-citizen for work in breach of a work-related condition.
He was also charged with a further five counts of prohibition on asking for or receiving a benefit in return for the occurrence of a sponsorship-related event, two counts of obtaining a financial advantage by deception, one count of dealing with proceeds of crime and one count of dealing with proceeds of crime.
The maximum penalty of the charges is a 20 years imprisonment.
Thomson became a federal Labor MP in 2007 holding his seat of Dobell on the NSW Central Coast until 2013.
In 2014 he was sentenced by a Victorian court to three months in jail, with a further nine months suspended, for stealing from the Health Services Union in his previous role as the union’s national secretary.
AFP Commander Investigations, Eastern Command, Craig Bellis said the charges laid involve allegations of a serious breach of public trust.
“The alleged offences in this matter involved the exploitation of federal government programs designed to assist Australian businesses, and it is incumbent on the AFP to investigate and prosecute instances of large-scale fraud against Australian taxpayers,” Mr Bellis said.
ABF Assistant Commissioner East and Port Operations, Erin Dale, said the ABF took a zero-tolerance approach to anyone trying to profit through the exploitation of vulnerable foreign workers.
“This investigation demonstrates the unwavering resolve of the ABF and AFP in preventing the exploitation of foreign workers in Australia. ‘Cash for visa’ schemes as they are often known, target vulnerable visa holders who may not be aware of Australian laws and workplace entitlements,” she said.
“Together, the ABF and AFP will continue to pursue [alleged] facilitators of visa and migration fraud, while protecting foreign workers who play a vital role within the Australian community.”
AUSTRAC National Manager Michael Tink said the department led in-depth financial analysis and traced funds that identified more than $2m in income that police would allege was derived from fraud-related offences.
Investigations are continuing and further arrests have not been ruled out.