$4m fraud alleged
Charges rock welfare sector
A PROMINENT African community leader has been charged over a $4 million fraud and with stealing welfare money.
Abeselom Nega, 54, is accused of dozens of serious financial crimes, including dishonestly obtaining $4.2 million paid to his personal bank account and to his company iEmpower between 2008 and 2019.
He is also charged with stealing $25,300 from the company, which helps divert troubled African youths from the justice system.
Charge sheets allege he lied about his qualifications to get onto the board of the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission.
Fraud squad detectives have been investigating Mr Nega for up to two years.
The probe was prolonged by the need to translate foreign-language telephone conversations.
Mr Nega is accused of producing false documents as part of the fraud, which detectives allege he used to get tens of thousands of dollars withdrawn in cash to be given to iEmpower clients “needing cash immediately”.
He is accused of pocketing the money and falsifying the company’s annual financial statements to conceal his alleged offending.
Mr Nega is well connected to key state and federal decision makers through his work and is a regular commentator on multicultural issues in the media.
He was previously a commissioner of the Victorian Multicultural Commission, a member of the Andrews Government African Ministerial Working Group and chair of the Audit and Risk Management Committee.
His other roles include board member of National Accreditation Authority for Interpreters and Translators and chair of the Melbourne Employment Forum.
He allegedly dishonestly obtained $21,578 by “providing false and misleading information in his curriculum vitae, which resulted in his appointment as a board member of the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission” from October 2012 to August 2018.
Mr Nega’s alleged offending has sent shockwaves through the state’s welfare sector.
He is charged with conspiring together with Daniel Nega to intentionally cause serious injury to Richard Ryan, the operations manager at iEmpower.
iEmpower also supports disadvantaged people with migrant or refugee backgrounds.
On Wednesday, Melbourne Magistrates Court heard formal statements from consultants, accountants and colleagues of Mr Nega were still being sought by detectives.
Magistrate Marita Altman ordered the statements be provided to the court by August 26.
Mr Nega is on bail and will return to court on September 23.