The defense team of Canberra solicitor Ben Aulich and accountant Michael Papandrea alleges police used unlawful actions and entrapment in an operation which led to charges being brought against their clients.
- Ben Aulich and Michael Papandrea are charged with conspiracy to launder money
- They were charged following an undercover police operation
- Defense lawyers told the court that the operation used illegal actions
Mr. Aulich and Mr. Papandrea are both charged with conspiracy to launder money. Mr. Aulich faces another charge of recruiting others to engage in criminal activity.
Both men appeared in the ACT Magistrates Court on Thursday, where their attorneys asked to be allowed to challenge the undercover police operation, which resulted in the charges, and to cross-examine witnesses.
The charge is that Mr. Aulich and Mr. Papandrea made arrangements with an undercover police officer who posed as a man in need of laundering money from the sale of illegally obtained cigarettes.
The men then allegedly discussed the merits of several businesses, including cafes, supermarkets and billboard beaters.
But Mr Papandrea’s lawyer, Sam Pararajahsingham, told the court the issues were only ever discussed hypothetically.
“Things were discussed on a general level,” Mr Pararajahsingham said.
But he told the court that changed when another person, known as UC02, became involved.
Unbeknownst to the couple, he was also an undercover agent.
“The position is changing and UC02 is playing an active and persistent role,” Mr Pararajahsingham said.
He said the man pushed for faster action, including asking for delays.
“The question arises whether UC02 was acting within the terms of the [police operation] or his actions did not fall under that,” Mr Pararajahsingham said.
Mr Aulich’s lawyer, David Campbell, said the arrangement with the undercover officer was “fictitious”, which sought to create an offense and acted as a “most serious trap”.
He told the court that if he found out that there had been entrapment and illegal activity, it would devastate the prosecution’s case in any future trial in the ACT Supreme Court.
“If we’re right, this material will never be admitted,” Campbell said.
“The entire prosecution case will be [collapse].”
But prosecutor Mark Tedeschi told the court the request was ill-conceived.
“The defense was unable to point to a single illegal act,” he said.
He dismissed the allegations of entrapment and said that after the undercover officer told them he had money from the sale of illegal cigarettes, the accused came up with the solution of creating a company to launder money.
“They want to go on a fishing expedition,” Mr Tedeschi said of the request to challenge the validity of the police operation.
“They want to explore the possibility that someone did something outside the scope of authority.”
The court has already rejected the claims of MM. Aulich and Papandrea seeking a copy of the transaction authorization.
The two men will not know until January whether they will be able to cross-examine police witnesses about their latest request.