Former Labor MP and union official Craig Thomson has been arrested by Australian Federal Police over an alleged multi-million dollar fraudulent visa program.
Thomson has been accused of facilitating more than 130 fraudulent visa applications – focusing on the restaurant and regional farm worker sectors – over four years, which is believed to have made more than $ 2 million from this activity.
He was due to appear at the local court in Gosford on the central coast of NSW on Wednesday.
The multi-agency investigation, led by AFP and including the Australian Border Force (ABF), Austrac, the tax office and the Home Office – reportedly found evidence of an alleged scheme to defraud legitimate visa programs.
It was sparked by an investigation by border forces into allegations of significant visa and migration fraud, dating back to August 2019.
In July 2021 nine search warrants were executed by AFP and ABF agents in connection with the investigation at premises in Wamberal, Terrigal and Copacabana on the central coast, in the suburbs of Revesby and Rockdale in Sydney, and in East Maitland , NSW, and Bundaberg West, Queensland.
Additional search warrants were executed on Wednesday at Thomson’s Terrigal residence and at Tuggerah premises.
Thomson has been charged with providing false documents and false or misleading information about non-citizens, and violating restrictions on the imposition of fees for immigration assistance.
He faces a maximum penalty of 10 years imprisonment if convicted of either offense.
Thomson became a Labor MP in 2007 and held Dobell’s seat on the central New South Wales coast until 2013.
AFP’s investigating commander for the Eastern Command, Craig Bellis, said the charges in the immigration case involved allegations of serious abuse of public trust.
“The alleged breaches in this case involved the operation of federal government programs designed to help Australian businesses, and it is the responsibility of AFP to investigate and prosecute large-scale fraud cases against Australian taxpayers,” he said. he declared.
ABF’s Erin Dale said the agency has taken a zero tolerance approach to anyone attempting to profit from the exploitation of vulnerable foreign workers.
âThis investigation demonstrates the unwavering determination of ABF and AFP to prevent the exploitation of foreign workers in Australia. Cash-for-visa programs, as they are often referred to, target vulnerable visa holders who may not be aware of Australian laws and workplace rights, âshe said.
“Together, ABF and AFP will continue to seek the facilitators of visa and migration fraud, while protecting foreign workers who play a vital role in the Australian community.”
Austrac’s national director, Michael Tink, said his agency had been involved in fundraising and identified more than $ 2 million in revenue likely to be derived from the alleged offenses.