Police say a senior Western Australia official and a close associate may have stolen as much as AU$25 Million from the taxpayers in a false billing scam that lasted for years.

That's ten times more than what 56-year old Paul Whyte is charged with stealing.  He is now suspended as assistant director general of the Department of Communities.  Mr. Whyte and 43-year-old Jacob Anthonisz made their first court appearances on Friday, charged with taking $2.5 Million.  Authorities opposed bail for the two, especially for My. Whyte whom they claimed was a flight risk.  Both men surrendered their passports and were called to reappear in court next month.

Prosecutors allege Whyte and Anthonisz submitted phony bills from shelf corporations to the department, avoiding official scrutiny by keeping the amounts less than $50,000 - the threshold for requiring higher approval in the WA Department of Communities.  

"If proven, these allegations are absolutely appalling and will be a complete betrayal of every West Australian," said WA Premier Mark McGowan.  "I know people across the community do a great job and often don't get paid a lot of money for it, and every West Australian would be shocked and outraged by these allegations."