Mule laundered cash via jewellers, cafe

·2-min read

A man has admitted being part of a syndicate that stole identities of 190 people to launder millions through Queensland jewellers and a coffee shop.

Karthik Pappu was part of a group who transferred money into accounts they opened using the details of identity theft victims, a Brisbane court was told on Tuesday.

Money mules, including the now 36-year-old Pappu, swiped bank cards associated with the accounts or conducted Apple Pay transactions at two jewellers and a coffee shop in Brisbane, but received no goods or services.

"The transaction simply involved the deposit of the fraudulently obtained money into the business bank account," prosecutor Emma Hislop said.

After funds were received by the businesses Pappu also helped deliver money to syndicate members.

Ms Hislop said Pappu once collected $15,000 from a business operator before being instructed by syndicate members in India about where and when to deliver the cash.

He also delivered $21,000 to a Surfers Paradise, Gold Coast address the day before his arrest on June 23 last year.

Investigators found Pappu was involved in transactions in which $562,490 was laundered, but were unable to determine how much he made.

The total amount laundered by the syndicate was about $2.685 million, Ms Hislop said.

Pappu is to be sentenced on the basis he had knowledge about the significant scale of the scheme.

The fingerprints of the Indian national - who is due to be deported on release from custody - were found on a book containing 71 pages of handwritten notes with information about 305 bank accounts and 68 compromised identities.

"In my submission, there was a significant degree of planning and organisation involved in the defendant's offending," Ms Hislop told the court.

She said Pappu answered to higher syndicate members, but also directed others like the money mules in Australia.

Pappu first came to Australia to study in 2005, then returned later and worked as a chef after moving to Brisbane in 2018.

He has been in custody for 454 days including 20 in the Brisbane watch house after his arrest, defence barrister James McNab said.

Pappu had not been involved in setting up the operation, but had been approached by acquaintances while working.

He pleaded guilty to a single count of money laundering committed over about 12 months.

Chief Judge Brian Devereaux is expected to sentence Pappu on September 28.