Canberra chef James Mussillon, who owns the renowned Courgette Restaurant, is behind bars after he was charged with money laundering, perjury and fraud.
Today Mr Mussillon, 49, was formally charged with 14 offences, some allegedly stretching back as far as 2016.
Court documents revealed police had been monitoring communications between him and his co-accused Mohammed Al-Mofathel, 28, for several years.
In raids conducted yesterday — which included the restaurant and homes in Bonner and Holt — police said they seized about $1 million in cash and assets.
Police said those assets included three cars, one of which was a Lamborghini.
The home in Bonner was itself restrained under the ACT’s proceeds of crime laws.
Police said the search of the properties also uncovered other items, including a gel blaster firearm, a commercial money counter and a quantity of steroids.
Mr Mussillon is facing three counts of dealing with the proceeds crime in amounts above $100,000, perjury, money laundering, perverting the course of justice and making a false document to deceive a public official.
Mr Al-Mofathel is charged with trafficking cannabis, along with perjury, money laundering and perverting the course of justice.
Courgette Restaurant has made frequent appearances in Australia’s Good Food Guide, along with other restaurants associated with Mr Mussillon.
This includes the Water’s Edge fine-dining restaurant on the foreshore of Lake Burley Griffin, which Mr Mussillon has now sold.
There is no suggestion the new owners of Water’s Edge are involved in any wrongdoing.
But court documents show police are investigating a period of time in 2015 when Mr Mussillion sold the restaurant to Mr Al-Mofathel, only to reacquire it later that year.
Police alleged Mr Al-Mofathel told friends the reason he handed it back to Mr Mussillion was that “it was too much work”, claiming “I was hardly ever there, man. I was too busy doing my own thing.”
The court materials also show Mr Al-Mofathel collected a disability support pension between 2013 and 2015.
In court today Mr Al-Mofathel pleaded not guilty all of the charges he is facing.
His lawyer Paul Edmonds told the court it was a weak case against his client.
“However strong the case is against Mr Mussillon, that cash was not found at the defendant’s residence,” Mr Edmonds said.
“What paperwork there is consistent with the accused being an employee of Courgette.”
Magistrate James Lawton said the case was circumstantial to a degree, but disagreed that it was particularly weak.
Detective Inspector Scott Moller said the arrests have disrupted a major illegal business.
“This is a traffickable distribution network so we are talking about kilos and kilos of cannabis in the ACT.” He said.
“Principally what their operation involved was cycling the money derived from the sale of illegal drugs through a (legitimate) business.”
He said an investigation like this takes a long time to bring to fruition.
“It’s the complexities of the investigation including tracking the money and identifying where the money is going that’s probably the hardest part of these investigations following the money.”
Detective Inspector Moller says he expects further arrests.
Mr Al-Mofathel was refused bail, but is expected to reapply next week.
Mr Mussillon has not entered a plea and will also return to court next week.
By Elizabeth Byrne, August 13, 2021, published on ABC News