22 April 2024

Drug dealing friend of top chef James Mussillon sentenced to over seven years' jail

| Albert McKnight
Lamborghini on a flatbed tow truck

Police seized a white Lamborghini coupe on 12 August 2021 when they arrested James Mussillon and Mohammad Al-Mofathel. Photo: ACT Policing.

The drug dealer friend of James Mussillon has been handed years in jail for a raft of charges, including for a money laundering scheme that involved the famed Courgette chef.

Last year, Mussillon was sentenced to almost four years’ jail for several offences, including money laundering, perjury and obtaining property by deception.

However, his friend and the alleged “mastermind” behind the offending, 31-year-old Mohammed Al-Mofathel, was not sentenced until Monday (22 April), when the ACT Supreme Court gave him a total of seven years and four months’ jail.

The cannabis dealer became friends with Mussillon, the chef and restauranteur who operated both Courgette and the Water’s Edge, in 2015, Justice David Mossop said.

The pair then created a method of laundering money from Al-Mofathel’s crimes. He paid Mussillon, and the latter repaid the money under the pretence that it was for wages.

In this way, Al-Mofathel laundered over $520,000 between 2016 and 2021, with Mussillon describing the related bank transfers as “boss pay” and “Courgette pay.”

Justice Mossop said the money laundering was not very sophisticated but did occur over a long time.

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Also, on 10 June 2020, Al-Mofathel fronted the ACT Magistrates Court to apply for bail on unrelated charges.

Justice Mossop said during the application, Mussillon was called as a witness and “brazenly and enthusiastically delivered lies”, including that his friend worked for him at Courgette as the operations manager and “did not take sick days”.

He also said he was the owner of a Lamborghini, but this luxury car was actually owned by Al-Mofathel.

Bail was later granted on strict conditions.

man walking with an umbrella

James Daniel Mussillon hides under an umbrella as he approaches court. Photo: Albert McKnight.

In 2021, police raided Wing Hei Leung’s home and found $153,600 cash in a wardrobe. Al-Mofathel then participated in a scheme to create a false loan document claiming that Mussillon had loaned the money to Leung.

Lastly, police pulled over Al-Mofathel when he was driving his car on 4 July 2021 and found he had five bags that contained a total of about 21.5 kg of cannabis as well as $14,500 cash.

Search warrants were executed at Courgette on 12 August 2021 and $130,000 in cash, electronics and documents were seized. Officers also searched Mussillon’s Bonner home and seized several items – including a Lamborghini and black BMW – and a Holt address where Al-Mofathel and some family members were present.

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Justice Mossop said Al-Mofathel, who has been in custody since August 2021, was a refugee from Iraq who moved to Australia with his family in 1996 when he was three years old.

He worked in construction and other industries until he was 21. He didn’t lodge a tax return between 2013 and 2019, even though he received disability support payments.

He originally intended to fight his charges and only pleaded guilty 10 weeks before his trial.

While Justice Mossop acknowledged his substantial criminal history, his family and third parties had discussed his desire to reform himself.

man leaving court wearing a mask

Wing Hei Leung, who runs The Scholar in Dickson, was sentenced to an intensive corrections order. Photo: Albert McKnight.

Al-Mofathel pleaded guilty to and was convicted on charges of money laundering, procuring perjury, making false evidence, general dishonesty, trafficking cannabis and contravening a court order.

He was handed a non-parole period of four years and five months’ jail. As it was backdated, he is eligible to be released from custody in January 2026.

When his sentence was announced, he was seen whispering to the custodial officers flanking him in the dock.

Mussillon also pleaded guilty and spent 12 months behind bars before he was released in August 2023.

Leung, who co-owns The Scholar Restaurant, pleaded guilty to charges of dealing with property suspected to be the proceeds of crime as well as general dishonesty and was handed a 12-month intensive corrections order.

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