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Kenyan charged in Australian court

PERTH, November 27 – A Kenyan Medicare worker has been charged in Australia for using dead people’s identities to claim more than Sh16 million in baby bonus payments.

Bernard Monyenye, 33, appeared in Perth Magistrates Court charged with 23 counts of abusing public office, 23 counts of obtaining advantage by deception and two counts of money laundering.

Monyenye was charged by Australian Federal Police in Perth after a media investigation.

The AFP alleges Monyenye used his position at Medicare to access Centrelink records of dead people to obtain tax file numbers and create false claims for baby bonus payments for 58 fictitious children.

Commonwealth prosecutor Patricia Aloi told the court that Monyenye claimed Sh16.2 million in various payments between June 12 and November 14, 2008.

She said he had dual Australian and Kenyan citizenship and was arrested before he was able to travel to Kenya next month with his family.

Ms Aloi opposed bail, saying they were serious charges carrying a maximum penalty of 20 years in some cases.

While police had seized Monyenye’s expired Kenyan passport, they did not have his Australian passport.

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"That is of concern to the crown," Ms Aloi told the court.

Monyenye had planned to leave Australia on December 7 to travel to Kenya with his wife of six years and his three-year-old child, Ms Aloi said.

Before his arrest, he had access to private information through his work which "would make it quite easy to create a false identity for purposes of travel", she said.

Monyenye’s lawyer Bayan Meshgin said his client, who had lived in Australia for 11 years, did not hold citizenship in any other country.

Monyenye had not left the country since his arrival in 1998 but planned to visit his father who had a heart condition and was likely to pass away in the next few months, Mr Meshgin said.

Return airline tickets for Monyenye and his wife and child were purchased before the allegations against his client were made, Mr Meshgin said.

"He instructs me the purchase of the ticket had nothing to do … with the allegations made against him," he said.

Mr Meshgin said Monyenye had not made any admissions to police and intended to deny the allegations.

He said the risk of him reoffending was substantially diminished because his client could no longer work at Medicare.

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Magistrate Wayne Tarr said the charges were serious and involved a large amount of money.

If found guilty Monyenye would face a certain term of imprisonment, Mr Tarr said.

"My view is the application for bail is premature," he said.

Monyenye was remanded in custody until his next appearance in the same court on December 11.

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