Lawyer accused of running fraud ring challenges police raids

A lawyer accused of running a sophisticated insurance fraud operation has challenged NSW police in the Supreme Court, arguing they were not allowed to seize legal files relating to his clients.

Police arrested Marcel Joukhador on Wednesday, charging him with one count of knowingly directing a criminal group and 10 counts of dishonestly obtaining financial benefit by deception.

The solicitor, who owns a $2.5 million South Coogee home, allegedly deceived 10 people by deducting, without their knowledge, payments of $2000 from compulsory third party insurance settlements worth a combined $1 million.

A police prosecutor said the fraud was "complex and sophisticated", running from 2014 to 2017 and involving many victims.

Appearing in Burwood Local Court on Thursday, Mr Joukhador applied for bail and requested he be allowed to contact some of his former clients.

His barrister, Felicity Graham, said Mr Joukhador had launched Supreme Court proceedings against the NSW police, claiming files they seized from his office in April were protected by his client's legal professional privilege.

However, magistrate Mark Richardson said the accused was at risk of fleeing overseas or interfering with alleged victims or witnesses, especially if he were allowed to contact them in any way.

Earlier in the day, the magistrate said: "I have much doubt that, unless there's some real money put on the table, this gentleman will be getting bail out of me."

He eventually rejected an offer of a $250,000 surety, saying the bail was not coming from Mr Joukhador's own finances.

Yet to enter a plea, Mr Joukhador was set to reapply for bail under new conditions next week. His Supreme Court matter will be next heard in October.

Mr Joukhador's alleged accomplice, former Bankstown physiotherapist Mohammad Ali Mahmoud Sallam, also appeared at Burwood on Thursday, charged with one count of directing a criminal group, 10 counts of fraud against the same victims and three counts of using or making false documents.

The false documents included reports from a psychiatrist and an orthopaedic surgeon.

Mr Sallam's lawyer, Paul McGirr, argued all the money allegedly obtained by deceit had been handled by Mr Joukhador and the police case against his client was weak. Mr Sallam pleaded not guilty. He was serving a criminal sentence in the community by way of an intensive corrections order, and was also on a good behaviour bond.

The magistrate found Mr Sallam also posed an unacceptable risk of meddling with victims or witnesses, denying him bail.

A third man, also an allied health professional, has been charged with directing a criminal group, 11 counts of fraud and 16 counts of publishing misleading material to obtain a financial advantage.

The NSW police operation Strike Force Ravens was set up in August 2016, tasked with cracking down on compulsory third party fraud. So far the operation has uncovered $11 million of alleged fraudulent activity, leading to 16 arrests and 120 charges, police say.

This story Lawyer accused of running fraud ring challenges police raids first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.