3 February 2023

The Scholar co-owner sentenced for role in crime syndicate with chef James Mussillon

| Albert McKnight
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Wing Hei Leung

Wing Hei Leung, who runs The Scholar Restaurant in Dickson, was sentenced to a community-based intensive corrections order. Photo: Albert McKnight.

A co-owner of The Scholar Restaurant has avoided time behind bars after he was sentenced for his role in a crime syndicate that included Courgette’s acclaimed chef James Mussillon.

Wing Hei Leung dealt with $153,600 cash that was the proceeds of crime from drug supply and repeatedly lied to police about the money, even signing a document produced by Mussillon that purported it was for a loan.

Police had been investigating a possible link between Leung and a co-accused, Mohammed Al-Mofathel, so went to his home and found the sealed bags of cash in shopping bags in a bedroom wardrobe.

Leung told police the money was from a loan between himself and Mussillon a number of times, while he also signed the purported loan document the famous chef provided.

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He pleaded guilty to charges of dealing with property suspected to be the proceeds of crime as well as general dishonesty before coming before the ACT Supreme Court to be sentenced on Thursday (2 February).

Acting Justice Peter Berman said Leung had become “something of a hardworking businessman” after coming to Canberra in 2002, but his restaurant, which is in Dickson, had fallen into hard times during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The cash that was discovered in Wing Hei Leung’s home. Photo: Tendered to the court.

He said it appeared the 41-year-old became involved in the enterprise “in order to make some money” due to the position his restaurant was in.

“He was not trying to get money to do something illegal, he was trying to get money to assist his business which was in trouble,” he said.

Defence barrister Katrina Musgrove had told the court her client was “not the brainchild of the offending” and was, to a degree, being led by others.

She said court documents outlining the case referred to Mussillon saying something like, “It’s OK, don’t be scared”, to Leung a number of times.

“Sure, he appears scared at times in phone calls … but he was responsible for his role in what he did,” Crown prosecutor Trent Hickey argued.

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Mr Hickey said Leung accepted he became involved in a crime syndicate for financial reasons and his role was to hide money on their behalf.

The money was the proceeds from illegal drug trafficking, he said, and Leung and others deliberately set about to mislead police so they could recover the cash and didn’t stop until they were charged.

But Ms Musgrove said there was nothing to indicate her client was aware the money came from drug supply.

James Mussillon

James Mussillon, owner/chef at Canberra’s popular Courgette restaurant. Photo: Supplied.

Leung was sentenced to 12 months’ jail to be served by an intensive corrections order, which is a community-based sentence.

“If the high-level criminals can’t get anyone to do their dirty work, then the community benefits,” Acting Justice Berman said.

Mussillon has already pleaded guilty to his charges and remains on bail ahead of his sentencing.

Al-Mofathel, a 29-year-old from Holt, has pleaded not guilty and has been committed to trial.

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