13 Dec 2011

Fraud accused in custody

4:54 am on 13 December 2011

Australian police have detained the New Zealand-born public servant accused of embezzling millions of dollars from the health service in Queensland.

A four-day hunt for Joel Barlow, 36, also known as Joel Morehu-Barlow, ended in the early hours of Monday morning when he was found semi-conscious in his apartment in the inner Brisbane suburb of New Farm.

He is expected to be released from Royal Brisbane Hospital in the next day or so and will be charged with fraud. He is under guard in hospital, the ABC reports.

Mr Barlow is believed to have grown up in Thames, before leaving crossing the Tasman about 15 years ago.

He is alleged to have embezzled $AUS16 million from Queensland Health.

Queensland Police Minister Neil Roberts has described the case as "one of the most significant fraud cases" in Australian history.

He said a "substantial proportion" of the money involved had already been recovered.

The fraud was discovered late last week.

Mr Barlow had been the subject of previous Queensland Health investigations which did not substantiate any misconduct.

Queensland Premier Anna Bligh has announced she will abolish the state's health department and start again in the wake of a major fraud scandal.

Ms Bligh says the arrest was the final chapter in the life of the ailing agency.

She says the department has failed and it needs a new beginning that will see two new agencies set up to replace it.

The controversy is the third to rock the department in recent years - following a doctor's trial for manslaughter and a multi-million payroll debacle that saw thousands of Queensland Health employees underpaid, overpaid or not paid at all.