A former financial officer at a construction payroll company has admitted stealing almost $840,000 to pay the debt of a Melbourne sex worker he claims to have fallen in love with, to release her from her life as a courtesan.

Rukesh Sadhai, 49, pleaded guilty in the County Court on Wednesday to funnelling $838,779.56 into personal accounts nominated by the sex worker by issuing 36 false leave invoices between 2012 and 2013 while he worked at construction payroll company CoINVEST.

Sadhai’s lawyer, Phillip Dunn, QC, told Judge Richard Maidment his client’s “unusual” theft was driven by his love for the sex worker he had become involved with, who told Sadhai she was working off a debt she had incurred by migrating to Australia.

“The unusual features [of this case] start to creep in when we realise that the offending occurred during a precise period of time when his father was dying, that his marriage was failing, and unfortunately for him, he’d fallen head over heels in love with a sex worker,” Mr Dunn said.

“It was his understanding that she had inherited debt. She was a Korean student [who] had to work as a prostitute in order to repay the inherited debt.”

Sadhai claimed the woman took the money so she would no longer have to take part in sex work. The proceeds, which formed the basis of four charges laid by police earlier this year, were paid into five different bank accounts that she nominated.

“None of the money came to him, all the money went somewhere…

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