Just two days after a lawyer was brazenly shot dead in southwestern Sydney, police seized $126,000 belonging to the alleged architect of the bloody plot, a court has heard.
Ho Ledinh was murdered in broad daylight when he was shot three times as he sat at the Happy Cup Cafe at Bankstown in January, 2018.
Abraham Sinai is standing trial in the NSW Supreme Court where he has pleaded not guilty to murder and denied planning the daylight execution.
It is not in dispute that gunman Arthur Keleklio used a .45 calibre gun to deliver the fatal shots into the solicitor’s back as he sat with a friend, the court heard on Tuesday.
Keleklio in April pleaded guilty in the Supreme Court to murder.
On the opening day of Mr Sinai’s trial, the jury was played gruesome CCTV footage which showed Mr Ledinh stumble before slumping to the ground after he was shot along a busy shopping strip.
Mr Sinai has denied allegations that he orchestrated and organised the killing before helping Mr Keleklio make his getaway.
“Mr Keleklio was the shooter, Mr Sinai didn’t pull the trigger,” Crown prosecutor Sean Hughes said.
“Mr Sinai, the crown says, is culpable by virtue he was part of an arrangement or agreement. In that sense, he was in on it.”
The crown have alleged that Mr Ledinh was killed over a financial dispute involving a man named “Khai”.
The court heard that Mr Ledinh had claimed that Khai had owned money to one of his clients, Tri Nguyen.
Mr Hughes said that Mr Sinai worked for Khai as a debt collector.
“When Khai had debts, or people owed him money the role Mr Sinai took is he would go around and demand payment if there was a problem,” Mr Hughes said.
But Mr Sinai’s defence have contended that Mr Ledinh was involved in the distribution of drugs and was partnered with Mr Nguyen in the illicit substance trade.
Barrister Mark Tedeschi, acting for Mr Sinai, also told the jury on the opening day of his client’s trial that Mr Ledinh and Mr Nguyen had been in a financial dispute after the Happy Cup Cafe, which they formerly owned together, was sold.
The court heard that two days after Mr Ledinh was shot, police pulled over three cars – one carrying Mr Sinai and another two carrying Mr Sinai’s relatives – from which officers seized $126,000.
While only $6000 was found in Mr Sinai’s car, he was later overheard in police phone taps claiming ownership of the entire sum of $126,000, Mr Hughes said.
However Mr Tedeschi described the crown’s case as relying on “suspicion”.
“We submit this is pure speculation on the part of the crown, that this had been a motive,” Mr Tedeschi said.
“You will not hear any evidence there was any payment to Mr Sinai for the death of Mr Ledinh.”
The court heard that following the shooting around 3.30pm on January 23 2018, Mr Keleklio fled the scene via a series of laneways into a car park at East Terrace, Bankstown.
The Crown told the jury that in the car park Mr Sinai, who was with his wife and sister at the time, met up with Mr Keleklio inside a grey Nissan van which they used as a getaway vehicle.
“He wasn’t there by accident,” Mr Hughes said.
While waiting, Mr Sinai’s sister and wife are captured on CCTV entering a St Vincent de Paul store.
Mr Tedeschi said there was no evidence that anyone in the Nissan Elgrand knew anything about the murder plot.
“In essence, the crown case is this car went to East Terrace to await the shooter, who was expected to come to the van,” Mr Tedeschi said.
“And not only has the accused taken his wife and sister along for the ride, he’s also allowed his wife and sister to get out of the van and go shopping at the exact time that the murder occurs.”
The trial, which is expected to last four weeks, continues before Justice Robert Hulme.
Originally published as What sparked horror cafe shooting: court