The Australian Federal Police want to seize more than $4.3 million from a Buddhist nun’s bank accounts because they suspect she is a member of an international money laundering syndicate.

Supreme Court Justice John Dixon revealed on Tuesday how the nun, who is based in Malaysia, claims the money had been hidden in tins under the floorboards of her temple in Kuala Lumpur before it was transferred to two bank accounts in Australia.

Justice Dixon said Buddhist nun Mah Meng Ling was the spiritual leader and president of a Buddhist temple in Malaysia who claimed the $4.3 million in the National Australia Bank accounts was her property but the AFP suspected it was the proceeds of crime.

Mah claimed she had been planning to use the money to buy a Buddhist centre in Melbourne.

‘‘The (AFP) Commissioner points to the fact that a significant part of the money - he alleged $800,000 but the correct figure may be $617,300 - was deposited by 78 cash deposits of less than $10,000 each made in Australian banks,’’ Justice Dixon said in a judgment handed down on Tuesday when deciding to adjourn the case to a later date.

He said a federal police officer suspected that Mah travelled to Australia to open bank accounts before returning to Malaysia. Unknown people had then made regular deposits into the NAB accounts.

Justice Dixon said Mah stated that being the head of a Buddhist order in Kuala Lumpur, she had access to a very large amount of cash.

‘‘These funds came from two sources; personal donations to her that was money available for her personal use, and funds generated by the temple and its various associated entities that were available to her to use in furtherance of both the temple and Buddhism,’’ the judge said.

‘‘These funds had been kept hidden in tins under the floorboards of the temple.

‘‘Acting on advice from Wong Pen Wah, she opened some bank accounts in Hong Kong with Citibank and DBS Bank Hong Kong. 

‘‘Mah stated that in order to spread Buddhism and to provide a haven against the consequences of any racial or religious problems in Malaysia, she came to Melbourne in December of 2012 to investigate the possibility of setting up a temple or some Buddhist centre here in Melbourne, and to that end looked for potential sites.

‘‘When in Melbourne, Mah opened two bank accounts with the National Australia Bank in Mt Waverley, apparently choosing that branch as she happened to be in the area at the time.

‘‘Eight days after she arrived in Australia, Mah returned to Malaysia.’’

She is not believed to have returned to Australia.

The judge said Wong, Mah’s financial adviser, claimed the funds were transferred to Australia into the NAB accounts by telegraphic bank transfer from Hong Kong accounts and by a money changer in Selangor, Malaysia, who offered better exchange rates and did not charge commission.

After the bank accounts were opened, according to federal police, more than $4 million was deposited.

There were 78 deposits made at different branches throughout Victoria and New South Wales between January and June last year in amounts under $10,000 - the threshold reporting limit under money laundering legislation.

Justice Nixon said that since the AFP investigation had begun, Mah claimed their focus had shifted from a situation where she had been suspected of being a member of an international money laundering syndicate to the point where she was now suspected of having avoided Malaysian income tax, and engaged in money laundering in Malaysia and currency offences in both Malaysia and Hong Kong. She denied any wrongdoing.