Jail after $3m laundered through CBA

Luke Costin

The first Australian-based man to face a terror-related foreign incursion charge has been jailed for at least four years on a separate matter after he helped launder $18 million through local banks.

Mount Lewis man Belal Betka, 27, deposited more than $4 million across 558 separate transactions - each designed to sit just under the $10,000 threshold that forces banks to report the deposit to financial intelligence entity Austrac.

The transactions were made in the 10 months to October 2017 at Sydney bank branches with most of the funds deposited with the Commonwealth Bank ($3.1 million) and NAB ($670,000).

Federal police arrested Betka in December 2017, when they also charged him over his travel to the Syrian conflict zone during 2015.

He's since pleaded guilty to engaging in hostile activity in a foreign country and is separately charged with entering or remaining in a declared area.

Bankstown man Ahmad Hawchar, 30, and Wiley Park man Zouheir Ghazaoui, 29, were also jailed on Monday for their roles in the money laundering scheme.

They laundered $167,000 in October 2017.

In total, $18.2 million was deposited over several thousand transactions.

CBA in June 2018 was fined $700 million after admitting it had contravened the Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorism Financing Act 2006 on 53,750 occasions.

The bank admitted failing to carry out an appropriate assessment of the money laundering and terrorism financing risks of its so-called intelligent deposit machines prior to October 2017.

NSW District Court Judge Nicole Noman SC said there was no evidence that any of the men had any concern about where the money was coming from, where it was going or who it was helping.

As police closed in during October 2017, they found $1.2 million in a Bankstown apartment and $116,000 in Hawchar's car. He claimed it was to pay fruit and vegetable suppliers.

Each pleaded guilty to their role in the scheme.

Betka was jailed for six years and 10 months. He's spent almost two years on remand.

Hawchar, who was on parole when arrested in October 2017, was jailed for three years and 10 months while Ghazaoui, who had no previous criminal history, was jailed for three years and two months.

Each will be eligible for parole in late 2021.