Husband and wife ‘money mules’

A man who took a bag containing $100,000 cash from Invercargill to Christchurch with his wife maintains he had no idea what was inside it.

The man, in his 30s, was granted final name suppression when he appeared in the Invercargill District Court this week so as not to identify his wife, whose identity will also remain under wraps.

In October, the man was found guilty of engaging in money laundering following a judge-alone trial and this week he was sentenced to seven months’ home detention.

The court heard the defendant and his wife were "money mules" who transported the proceeds of crime to people higher up in the operation.

At his wife’s sentencing, the couple were described as "one small cog in a much bigger wheel".

The summary of facts says the main player in the police-coined "Operation Brooking" ran an informal and unregistered Bitcoin trading operation, providing a cryptocurrency trading service and a money-remitting service.

He would use the money to buy high-value assets.

The services were used by people who had obtained money by illegal means.

The New Zealand Herald reported in October 2020 millions of dollars of high-end assets were seized in Auckland as part of the operation.

On May 26, 2022, the man took the day off work to drive a supermarket bag containing $100,000 in cash to Christchurch Airport, where the money was given to two men who had flown in from Auckland.

The couple then drove back to Invercargill — a 14-hour round trip.

The man claimed he never asked his wife what was in the bag and had no knowledge of the men they were meeting at the airport.

Judge Russell Walker said that explanation "stretched credibility" and "defied belief".

"It could well be argued that this was, in fact, a joint venture," he said.

"This offending could not have been facilitated without your help."

When the police asked him why he never inquired about what was in the bag he said: "Look, I may have asked what was in it and probably got told — I don’t know."