Brisbane pharmacist repays $1.9m under proceeds of crime legislation after AFP asset restraint

A Brisbane pharmacist charged with defrauding the Commonwealth’s Pharmaceutical Benefit Scheme (PBS) has been ordered to repay nearly $2 million after the AFP-led Criminal Asset Confiscation Taskforce (CACT) restrained residential property, shares and cryptocurrency linked to the man.

In November 2021, the CACT applied to restrain the property under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 (Cth) following a referral from the Department of Health (DoH).

The DoH alleges the pharmacist received nearly $2 million in PBS payments for pharmaceutical benefits which were not actually supplied to eligible recipients.

The man, 41 faced Brisbane Magistrates Court on 9 July 2021 charged with one count of obtaining a financial advantage by deception contrary to section 134.2 (1) of the Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth). The maximum penalty is 10 years’ imprisonment.

Following the criminal charge, the DoH referred the matter to the AFP to consider commencing confiscation proceedings. The CACT worked closely with DoH investigators to identify suspected proceeds of crime under the man’s control and restrained assets.

On 12 July, 2022, the District Court of Queensland ordered the pharmacist to pay $1.9 million to the Commonwealth pursuant to section 116(1) of the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 (Cth). The debt will be paid from the sale of restrained assets including a share trading account worth $1.37 million, cryptocurrency and two houses in Brisbane.

Money from the liquidated assets will be paid into the Confiscated Assets Account, which is managed by the Australian Financial Security Authority on behalf of the Commonwealth. These funds can be distributed by the Attorney-General to benefit the community through crime prevention, intervention or diversion programs or other law enforcement initiatives across Australia.

AFP National Manager Criminal Assets Confiscation Stefan Jerga said fraud against the government undermines the government’s ability to deliver services and support to all Australians.

“Defrauding the government is an affront to all honest and hard-working members of our community.”

“Our highly-skilled Australia wide CACT teams of police officers, financial investigators, litigators, forensic accounts and partner agency specialists will continue to be relentless in our pursuit of criminal assets and protecting the integrity of government measures which support the Australian community.

“Our action in this matter sends another strong signal to anyone trying to defraud the Government that in addition to the risk of being charged and jailed for their conduct, they also risk losing their home and other assets.”

The CACT brings together the resources and expertise of the AFP, Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission, Australian Taxation Office, AUSTRAC and the Australian Border Force. These agencies work together to trace, restrain and ultimately confiscate criminal assets.

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