A Whangarei butcher has denied knowing that the $25,000 worth of kauri gum found in his possession was stolen.
Weiquan Yang, 44, reappeared in the Whangarei District Court this week on two charges of receiving kauri gum. The valuable commodity in his possession was among thousands of dollars worth of kauri gum police seized from a central city brothel in September last year.
Banana boxes, fish bins and sacks filled with mostly chunks of unpolished kauri gum were found during a search of the Scarlet Lounge on Clyde St. Yang owns the brothel.
Officers carried out two searchs - one at the Scarlet Lounge and the other at a rural property south of the city at Oakleigh. Some of the kauri gum was later returned to Yang after he produced receipts for it. Yang first appeared in court in September but did not enter a plea to one charge of receiving. He has since pleaded not guilty to both charges. In court this week Yang requested, through a Chinese interpreter, representation through legal aid. Judge John McDonald explained to him the process he had to go through to access legal aid funding.
When asked by the judge whether he accepted some of the kauri gum in his possession was stolen by others, Yang replied: "I still don't have the knowledge."
Police prosecutor Sergeant Paul Brocas said 15 witnesses, including phone records would be tendered as evidence during the judge-alone trial. Yang was remanded on bail to re-appear for a case review on January 13 when the trial date will be confirmed.
Northland police said kauri gum had been targeted in the region over the past 12 months and believed it was being exported to the Chinese market. In May last year, thieves raided cabinets at Waiharara's Gumdiggers' Park and stole about 80 pieces of polished gum.