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Middle Eastern gangs and other criminal groups stole $8.8 billion from the NDIS this year

Middle Eastern gangs and other criminal groups are stealing more money from the National Disability Insurance Scheme than previously suspected, costing the taxpayer at least $8.8 billion this year alone.

Commission Michael Phelan warned in 2022 while boss of the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission that as much as one-fifth of NDIS funding was being abused by crime syndicates.

Mr Phelan is now Acting Commissioner of the NDIS Quality and Safeguards, and said on Friday that the situation is even worse than he feared, ABC News reported.

“I certainly made those comments in 2022, in my position as head of the crime commission, and to be perfectly honest I haven’t stepped back from that position,” Mr Phelan said.

“When I made that assessment, we didn’t have perfect information before us, we only had what we got from the intelligence inside the commission … now I’ve been involved with working in the NDIS, it is arguable I was a little conservative — particularly with some of the things that have been happening.”

A Nine newpapers investigation in the same year found that members of Middle Eastern crime syndicates were heavily involved in robbing the NDIS.

Mr Phelan told the publication that the organised crime groups were creating fake clients, inflating invoices, intimidating and taking advantage of real NDIS clients, skimming money, charging for services never provided, and even had pharmacy employees on the payroll to identify new NDIS users they could exploit.

The NDIS cost the Australian taxpayer $44 billion this financial year, and according to Labor’s Budget handed down earlier this month is expected to hit $61 billion by 2028.

However, costs have blown out and exceeded forecasts every year since the scheme’s inception in 2013, helping make Australia one of the world’s biggest spenders on disability in the world.

More than 3% of GDP now goes towards the NDIS, the disability support pension and the carer payment – more than double the UK’s share, and on par with Sweden, Finland and Iceland.

18% of Australians (4.4 million people) are disabled, according to the most recent government data, and for 23% of those their main form of disability is mental or behavioural.

Another 22% of the population have a long-term health condition.

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