Jatinder Singh: Melbourne judge raises ‘haunting’ concerns about $6m crypto bungle case

A Victorian judge has aired “haunting” concerns about her willingness to proceed in a case involving a $10 million cryptocurrency bungle.

Jatinder Singh, 38, was due to face a presentence hearing in the Victorian County Court on Thursday after pleading guilty late last year to stealing $6.09 million.

But before it could begin the hearing was thrown into disarray after an interpreter for Singh failed to appear.

Despite this, Judge Martine Marich put his lawyers on notice about her “concerns” with the state of the material they planned to rely on.

She said she “cannot reconcile” Singh’s plea of guilty, with his insistence he continues to deny intending to steal.

“As a Sikh it was the shame of being charged as a thief which he could not accept,” she said.

“He denies the mental element of the offence still … it nullifies any weight that I could attach to remorse.”

Judge Marich further questioned whether Singh would benefit from “independent legal advice” about to possibility of changing his plea.

“It needs another look so your client’s interests are best accommodated,” she told barrister Martin Kozlowski.

“Surely it might have raised issue in the defence team … as to whether his interests would be better served by a plea of not guilty.”

She also flagged concerns about the “striking similarity” between five character references provided for Singh by associates.

Previously, prosecutor Campbell Thomson told the court the saga began when Singh used his then-partner’s bank account to transfer $100 into a Crypto.com account in May 2021.

The platform declined the deposit, emailing Singh to say they would provide a refund.

Days later, a Crypto.com staff member made a “significant accounting mistake”, Mr Thompson said, instead transferring $10.47 million into his partner’s account.

The mistake, caused by the employee entering the bank account number as the amount to be returned, wasn’t discovered until seven months later.

In the meantime, Singh and his partner, Thevamanogari Manivel, had gone on a spending spree buying a home, land and giving one man a $1 million “gift”.

They were arrested in March the following year, after ignoring communication from their bank stating they need to return the money.

The court was told about $7 to $8 million of the mistakenly sent money had since been recovered.

Prosecutors claimed Singh “knew” this was a mistake, but he told investigators after his arrest he “honestly believed” he’d won an online competition.

Judge Marich adjourned the case until March, urging Singh’s defence to revisit their case, pointing to the “very considerable” difference between the jail sentence prosecutors are seeking and Mr Kozlowski’s sentencing submissions.

“I can say this is one of the more serious ones on my roster,” she said.

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