A Dereham man allowed his bank account to be used to launder nearly £60,000 duped from a lonely Australian divorcee, who was tricked into handing over cash after joining an internet dating website, a court heard.

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The divorcee sent 90,000 Australian dollars, worth nearly £60,000, thinking it was payment to the South African revenue as duty owed on a valuable painting owned by a man she met on a dating website, Norwich Crown Court was told.

Instead the cash went straight into the Barclays bank account in Dereham of Fidelis Iruedo, 27. Robert Warner, prosecuting, said that £40,000 was immediately transferred to an account in Nigeria and £20,000 was withdrawn by Ireudo as payment for his part in the scam.

Although the divorcee made several other payments to the fraudsters this payment was the only one to go through Iruedo’s personal bank account.

He said a final payment she made to a IT company, in London, for more than 80,000 Australian dollars was managed to be clawed back after she was contacted about being a victim of the scam, although the cash she paid into Iruedo’s account was never recovered.

He said when Norfolk police went to arrest Iruedo he had gone back to Nigeria but he was arrested when he flew back to Norwich airport on May 10, 2012.

Iruedo, of Cygnet Road, Dereham, admitted money laundering and was jailed for 20 months.

John Morgans, for Iruedo, said that it was a cynical and sophisticated fraud but he had not been central to any deception.

“He was unaware of what he was getting into.”

He said he was desperate for money at the time as his import export business was not doing well.

“He was the only person who had any sort of comeback. It was his real name on the account. The only person it was ever going to come back on, was this defendant. He saw this as a way of making money. He is not a sophisticated fraudster”

Mr Morgan added: “If he could turn back the clock he would. He thought it was an easy way to make money.”

Jailing him Judge Stephen Holt said the victim was drawn into the deception after meeting a man on a dating website who she thought was “honest and trustworthy.”

He said that for his part Iruedo had taken a cut of £20,000, but accepted he was always going to be the “fall guy.”

He added:”Your plea of guilty is your strongest mitigation.”

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