News National AFP freezes millions in assets of public servants accused of conspiring to defraud government

AFP freezes millions in assets of public servants accused of conspiring to defraud government

Public servant Gopalakrishnan Vilayur is one of three men charged over an alleged conspiracy to defraud the Australian government. Photo: ABC News/Michael Black
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Australian Federal Police have frozen $7.8 million in assets linked to three Canberra federal public servants accused of taking kickbacks to award government contracts.

Seven homes were frozen by police, who alleged the trio were using their gains to buy and renovate homes in Canberra.

Police arrested Abdul El-Debel, 47, Gopalakrishnan Vilayur, 50, and Raminder Kahlon, 36, last month after a year-long investigation by fraud and anti-corruption investigators sparked by a Finance Department report to police.

It is alleged over a two-year period that the men used their inside knowledge to influence IT contracts at the department, receiving financial rewards for their efforts.

Mr El-Debel and Mr Vilayur were both charged in the ACT Magistrates Court with conspiracy to defraud the Commonwealth and abuse of public office.

Mr Kahlon was charged with conspiracy.

Police said Abdul El-Debel and two other men may have used kickbacks for awarding government contracts to buy and renovate homes in Canberra. Photo: ABC News/Michael Black

Today, the AFP revealed officers from their Criminal Assets Confiscation Taskforce (CACT) had frozen assets, including bank accounts, seven homes and several vehicles, worth an estimated $7.8 million.

In a statement, the AFP said they had frozen properties in the Canberra suburbs of Griffith, Barton, Palmerston and Narrabundah that were linked to the men.

“The CACT will allege the men conspired to direct information technology contracts through preferred suppliers, and then received financial benefits as a result of this activity, some of which was then used to purchase and renovate residential properties in Canberra,” the police statement said.

“This action follows the 10 June 2020 arrest of three men charged with conspiracy to defraud the Australian Government while working for an Australian public service agency in Canberra.”

The trio are currently released on bail under strict conditions, including an agreement to pay $25,000 if they fail to appear in court, to not contact each other, and a ban on remotely connecting to the Department of Finance IT system.

Police said the arrests came after a complex investigation, which began after officers were alerted by the Department of Finance in July last year.

The men are expected to re-appear in court this month.