Money mule jailed for more than two years

By Jimmy Ellingham

File photo / NZ Herald
File photo / NZ Herald

In a foreign country and failing at his studies, an Auckland university student became embroiled in an offshore money muling scam.

Harsh Rana, 27, was today jailed for two years and two months after admitting 21 charges of dishonestly using a document and 17 of accessing a computer system for dishonest purposes.

As soon as he is released from jail, he will be deported to India.

In 2012, Rana was recruited as a money mule.

Mules' accounts are used to move money from victims of phishing email scams so the cash can be withdrawn.

In the Auckland District Court today, Judge Ema Aitken said the scam was a "relatively sophisticated" one, probably run in Nigeria.

Rana was initially unwittingly involved, but then he became aware of what was happening and even accessed bank accounts via the internet, causing a loss of about $90,000 to the banks involved.

A police summary says Rana's role "progressed from merely a mule" to an "organiser and instigator" of the fraud.

Defence lawyer Petrina Stokes said Rana first came to New Zealand in 2010 to study a post graduate diploma in international business at AUT.

He failed the qualification but returned in 2012 to study full time, while he lived at university hostel. A room mate introduced him to gambling and despite some initial success, Rana became addicted, his financial woes bloomed and he had to move from the into a backpackers.

It was there he was introduced to the money muling scam, although at first he thought he was helping a friend by lending him his back account, Ms Stokes said.

Rana now had a sizeable student loan from India and had blotted his previously conviction-free record.

"He situation is one that's probably reflected by his circumstances, his lack of support in New Zealand and his financial circumstances," Ms Stokes said.

Judge Aitken said Rana's involvement in the scam was "regrettable and somewhat out of character".

"I accept that you are very deeply remorseful and you would like to turn back the clock."

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