Couple mistakenly given $10.5m from Crypto.com thought they had won contest, court hears

Money from crypto exchange was allegedly used to buy four houses worth $4m, vehicles, art and furniture, police officer tells court

A Victorian woman accused of theft over a $10.5m mistaken cryptocurrency refund has been released on bail as she awaits trial, despite claims she allegedly tried to flee the country.

Thevamanogari Manivel and her partner, Jatinder Singh, appeared by video link from prison in Melbourne magistrates court on Tuesday when they were committed to stand trial on theft and other charges.

In May 2021, Crypto.com intended to refund Manivel $100 but she was erroneously transferred $10.47m. The company did not notice the mistake until an audit was conducted in December.

A worker in Bulgaria, who processed the refund, had entered the wrong numbers into an Excel spreadsheet, Michi Chan Fores, a Crypto.com compliance officer, told the court.

Once processed, she said the refund request was sent to a payment provider in Australia, who then transferred the money into Manivel’s Commonwealth Bank account.

The Crypto.com account was in Singh’s name but the transfer may have been sent to Manivel’s account as he used her bank card to buy cryptocurrency, the court heard.

Singh allegedly thought he won the money after being sent a notification from the Crypto.com app about a competition. This was also what he told Manivel.

However, Fores claimed there was no such competition and said Crypto.com did not send push notifications to tell users about competition winnings.

The money was allegedly used to buy four houses while $4m was transferred to a Malaysian bank account. The rest paid for gifts, vehicles, art and furniture, the court heard.

Most of the money has since been paid back but about $3m remains outstanding, with civil action under way to freeze the properties and get money back from relatives.

Manivel pleaded not guilty to three charges, including theft from Commonwealth Bank for withdrawing the money and negligently dealing with the proceeds of crime.

She was arrested at Melbourne airport in March while allegedly trying to fly home to Malaysia on a one-way ticket with about $11,000 in cash – which forms another charge.

Singh pleaded not guilty to charges including theft for withdrawing the Crypto.com money from the bank.

Manivel’s lawyer, Jessica Willard, applied for her client to be released on bail with a $10,000 surety from her brother.

She said Manivel did not know there were criminal charges being brought against her when she tried to fly home to see her ex-husband and children.

Manivel has been in custody since her arrest more than six months ago and faced another year behind bars before the trial begins, Willard argued.

The prosecution opposed bail on the basis Manivel was a flight risk and her release could hinder the recovery of outstanding money.

Magistrate Peter Reardon granted Manivel bail on strict conditions, including that she surrender her passport and cannot attend any points of departure.

Manivel and Singh are due to face a directions hearing in the county court on 8 November.

Releated

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