CHILDCARE claims totalling more than $27 million of taxpayers’ money are suspected to have been sent to Islamic State terrorists.
Counter-terrorism police and seven other agencies are investigating if the childcare benefits and rebates are being sent overseas to help ISIS and other terrorist groups after a 10-month inquiry culminated in a raid on the Lakemba family day care business of brothers Mohammad and Ibrahim Omar, aged 25 and 27, who operate more than 600 in-home daycare providers.
Two men employed as family dare care educators by the Omars — Ali Assad, the 22-year-old secretary of Sydney charity Dar al Quran wa Sunnah, from Moorebank, and 26-year-old Hussain Dandachi, from Old Guildford, — have been arrested, The Australian reported on Monday.
Assad was arrested last Wednesday as he prepared to travel to Saudi Arabia. He was granted bail on Thursday night on condition he surrender his passport and not leave the country. Assaad has been charged with one count each of obtaining a financial advantage by deception, making false or misleading statements and dishonestly causing loss to the commonwealth.
His charity is under investigation in Lebanon for raising money and recruiting for the Islamic State.
Dandachi, who was arrested in April for threatening people with a sword at a shopping centre, was charged with one count each of obtaining a financial advantage by deception, making false or misleading statements and dishonestly causing loss to the commonwealth.
It is reported that the investigation was launched when Dandachi was prevented from boarding a flight overseas last October and had his passport cancelled.
The alleged scam involved claiming several concurrent payments for the same child and claiming rebates for non-existent children.
The 7.30 Report on ABC on Monday alleged that Assad had been paid more than $150,000 in the past financial year for more than 20,500 hours of childcare.
To receive those payments Assad would have needed to care for the maximum of seven children at once for more than eight hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days in a row. Yet he is known to have made three trips to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and posted pictures online.
Australian Federal Police, which made the arrests in conjunction with agencies including the Australian Border Force, Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission and the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre or AUSTRAC, allege in statements tendered to the court that the wide-scale fraud was centred on the Lakemba day care business. The AFP listened to Ibrahim Omar’s phone calls to Assad last month where they allegedly conspired to falsify childcare time sheets.
“We should enter it all as 50 and see what happens,” Omar is alleged to have said.
Assad replied: “Enter it as 50, bro. I also want to put another kid under the same thing, I’ll send you all the details now.”
On Sunday night, another of the Omars’ childcare providers was raised and charged with fraud.
Sam Page. Early Childhood Australia CEO, told the 7.30 Report that the multi-million dollar fraud under investigation is the biggest he has been made ware of.
“We don’t know whether all of the educators in this scheme are fraudulent or whether it’s some are legitimate and some are fraudulent,” he said.
“We know the government has been putting a lot of time and energy into cracking down on childcare fraud.”
Lowy Institute’s terrorism expert Lydia Khalil said it is concerning “that it is a domestically funded, taxpayer-funded money that seems to be going through this program, this will be very concerning to the government and to authorities, certainly. they are going to probably be looking very closely and tightening up their procedures around such childcare programs.”
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