A new court date has been set to hear criminal fraud charges levelled at an Illawarra solicitor and his surgeon wife, as the pair dig deep to secure top-shelf barristers to argue their cases.
Ashutosh 'Ash' Agarwal, a former managing director of Acorn Lawyers, and Dr Smita Argawal, an ophthalmologist working in the Illawarra, are both denying the allegations against them and will have their cases tested in a joint, five-day hearing at Albion Park courthouse beginning on December 14.
Ashutosh stands accused of stealing $189,950 in Australian currency from a safety deposit box inside the Commonwealth Bank in Wollongong on January 3 last year.
He was arrested on July 3, interviewed by Wollongong detectives and charged with a single count of larceny.
As a result, police obtained a warrant to search the Agarwal family home in Brookers Road, Balgownie.
It will be alleged when Ashutosh was advised of this, he contacted Smita from custody and had a brief conversation with her.
A short time later, Smita left her work at Wollongong Eye Specialists and returned home where she was allegedly stopped by police leaving the residence with $69,500 of Australian currency and $7000 in US currency.
Police arrested Smita and took her back to Wollongong Police Station where she was interviewed but released pending further investigation. Police allegedly discovered more Australian currency at the house during the search warrant.
Smita was subsequently charged with recklessly dealing in the proceeds of crime.
The pair had been due to have their case heard in a three-day hearing in March, however the sittings had to be abandoned due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Meanwhile, Ash will be represented in court by Sydney silk Simon Buchen SC, who recently fought to have John Ibrahim's girlfriend, Sarah Budge, cleared on three weapons charges after police found a defaced Glock 26 pistol and a magazine loaded with some 16 bullets in her Double Bay unit in August 2017.
The Mercury understands Smita's lawyers had sought to have leading Sydney counsel, Phillip Boulton SC, in their client's case, however Mr Boulton's unavailability meant another barrister would need to be instructed.
It is expected a barrister of similar renown and experience will be appointed to run Smita's case.
Meanwhile, police have indicated in previous court proceedings they will call 18 witnesses to give evidence in the hearing.
A Sydney-based magistrate will preside over the case, however one is yet to be appointed.
Ash remains on conditional bail, while Smita is not subject to bail.
Both were excused from attending court.