Thursday, 21 August 2008

Tanesh Bernard Dias allegedly helped a drug group in "cuckoo smurfing"

Tanesh Bernard Dias, 35, allegedly helped a drug group in "cuckoo smurfing", a sophisticated way of substituting legitimate overseas money transfers for drugs money. Federal agent Mark Creighton told the court Mr Dias received amounts of up to $1 million a time between March and his arrest earlier this month. Melbourne Magistrates' Court was told he would meet accused syndicate member Sharon Ropa, 37, at a Footscray supermarket, where she would hand him bundles of cash.
Mr Creighton said Mr Dias then used false names to put the money into bank accounts connected with Asian money transfer agencies. "The applicant received money from a criminal syndicate and he assisted in the banking of these monies so similar value could be made available to the criminal syndicate overseas," Mr Creighton said. Mr Dias was paid 0.35 per cent of the total he allegedly helped launder, the court was told. Mr Creighton said officers saw Mr Dias with cash amounts "the size of house bricks" and he recruited others to help with the deposits.
A search of his home uncovered 200 bank deposit slips worth $2 million and a further 54 transactions involving $703,000, it was said.
Mr Creighton said Mr Dias admitted in a police interview he thought the money might have come from drugs. Defence lawyer Charles Tan said using money remitting agencies in Asia was normal and his client "could have been unaware of what he was getting into". Mr Dias is charged with dealing with the proceeds of crime and providing false reporting information during bank deposits. The court was told Mr Dias had fled Sri Lanka on a false passport and was awaiting a protection visa application review in Australia. Mr Creighton said he feared Mr Dias would flee the country if released on bail. Magistrate Simon Garnett refused bail, saying the case against Mr Dias was strong and he was a flight risk. The record bust last June netted 4.4 tonnes of ecstasy, said to be worth $400 million. Mr Dias is due in court again next year.

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