Three cars worth $250,000 have been stripped from a sickness beneficiary despite his acquittal on drugs and money laundering charges.
Police seized two late-model Mercedes Benz and a Porsche from Paul Yu Hung Szeto when he was arrested on money laundering and methamphetamine charges in December 2008.
The jury heard evidence that Szeto and his girlfriend Wei Na Shi - a 28-year-old also known as Candy - bought the 2005 Mercedes SLK convertible with $21,500 cash and two cheques totalling $50,000.
They bought a 2003 Mercedes sedan with $17,000 cash and four cheques totalling $80,000. A 2005 Porsche Cayenne was paid for with $66,785 cash in September 2008.
The Crown alleged the money was drug profits. Szeto's defence was that it came from other sources, including gambling.
The 59-year-old and his girlfriend were found not guilty after a seven-week trial in the High Court at Auckland, where multimillionaire businessman Max Beckham was found guilty of serious drugs and money laundering charges.
As the cars were seized under old legislation, they would have been returned to Szeto on his acquittal.
However, police filed a fresh application to seize the cars again under the new Criminal Proceeds (Recovery) Act. The law grants police the power to confiscate without proving a criminal offence occurred.
The evidential threshold is lowered from "beyond reasonable doubt" to the "balance of probabilities" and the onus is on defendants to prove how assets were paid for.
Szeto did not contest the confiscation application and a High Court judge this week ordered his three cars be forfeited to the police.
Profits from the sale of the cars will go to the Crown.
Detective Superintendent Peter Devoy, head of the police Financial Crime Group said the win highlighted the difference with the new regime.
He said it was not the first time assets had been successfully seized after an acquittal, but was the most significant so far.
"While someone might be able to walk away from the courts without a conviction, we can still strip them of the profits of crime."
Last week, Police Minister Judith Collins said $38.5 million in criminal assets had been seized and restrained so far this year.By Jared Savage @jaredsavageNZH Email Jared