Couple mistakenly given $10.5m from thought they had won contest, court hears | Cryptocurrencies

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

Thevamanogari Manivel and her partner, Jatinder Singh, appeared via video link from jail in Melbourne Magistrates’ Court on Tuesday as they were committed to stand trial on theft and other charges.

In May 2021, intended to refund Manivel $100, but she was mistakenly transferred $10.47 million. The company did not notice the error 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 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 to Manivel’s Commonwealth Bank account.

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

Singh allegedly thought he won the money after receiving a notification from the app about a contest. That’s what he told Manivel too.

However, Fores argued that there was no such contest, saying that did not send push notifications to notify users of contest wins.

The money was allegedly used to buy four houses, while $4 million 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 repaid, but about $3 million is still outstanding, with civil suits underway to freeze the properties and recover money from relatives.

Manivel pleaded not guilty to three charges, including theft from the Commonwealth Bank for withdrawing the money and negligently handling 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 amounts to a second charge.

Singh pleaded not guilty to charges including theft to withdraw the money from the bank.

Manivel’s attorney, Jessica Willard, applied to have her client released on bail with a $10,000 bond from her brother.

She said Manivel did not know there were charges 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 grounds that Manivel was a flight risk and her release could hinder the recovery of outstanding monies.

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

Manivel and Singh are due to appear in the High Court on November 8.

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