An innocent outing to have pizza with his uncle ended up with the son of Kings Cross identity John Ibrahim being accused of illegally handling $2.25 million.
But at Sydney's Central Local Court on Monday, Daniel Taylor was cleared of involvement in an illegal tobacco smuggling ring connected to the cash.
The 28-year-old had been accused of knowing the money was in a bag and suitcase in the boot of the car that he travelled in, from his eastern suburbs home to Rozelle, to meet his uncle Michael Ibrahim on July 24, 2017.
The prosecution alleges the money, then handed to an undercover police officer in the Sackville Hotel car park, was payment or part-payment for the illegal importation of cigarettes.
The court was played CCTV footage of the exchange, which magistrate Beverley Schurr said was "not clear" as to whether Taylor handled the luggage although he "probably assisted with the second bag being unloaded".
She discharged Taylor on the charge of dealing with an instrument of crime greater than $1 million.
Lawyer Michael Gatenby had argued Ibrahim was "just some uncle taking his nephew out for pizza" that day and Taylor was "nothing more than a rear passenger".
He rejected the suggestion it was "some clandestine meeting" and said there was no evidence of Taylor being entrusted with the money.
"It was no more than an instant that he helped an older uncle with a bag. Incredible that it got to this, very disappointing," Mr Gatenby told reporters outside court, adding that the dismissal was of "massive relief" to Taylor.
"He'd been contacted that morning. His uncle said 'let's go for a pizza' and they went and had a pizza."
Crown prosecutor Georgina Wright had submitted that two conversations intercepted by police after the event indicated admissions by Taylor.
They included him saying "I helped to get it out of the car, big f***ing deal" and "I'd be copping it on the chin if I was making money out of it but I didn't make anything, f*** all".
Ms Wright said Taylor's involvement included possession of the money from the time it left his house in the car.
But the magistrate did not accept these arguments.
She said there is "certainly circumstantial evidence" Taylor and Ibrahim were together before the handover, but there was no evidence as to how and when the luggage was put in the car or where the bags were beforehand.
Taylor is now on unconditional bail and due before Downing Centre Local Court on December 18 on his remaining charge of possessing a prohibited steroid.
His uncle, Fadi Ibrahim, and co-accused Abraham Sayour and Hasan Sayour, have been committed to stand trial in NSW's District Court on January 18 over their alleged links to the smuggling ring.
At least eight other men, including Michael Ibrahim, are also before the courts.
Australian Associated Press