Jared Savage

Jared Savage is the New Zealand Herald's investigations editor.

Property seized, but owner not charged

Exclusive - Assets frozen despite `tenuous link' to drug operation.

Yingzi Zeng's Auckland home, with a capital value of $820,000, has been seized under the Criminal Proceeds (Recovery) Act. Photo / Dean Purcell
Yingzi Zeng's Auckland home, with a capital value of $820,000, has been seized under the Criminal Proceeds (Recovery) Act. Photo / Dean Purcell

Millions of dollars in assets have been seized from an Auckland woman even though she faces no criminal charges.

A late-model Porsche and Maserati, a $3.9 million lifestyle block, an apartment, a large Auckland home, bank accounts and businesses are among the assets of Yingzi Zeng which were frozen by a High Court judge.

The court order was made alongside six others affecting people who face serious charges of importing and supplying the Class B drug pseudoephedrine following the record-breaking Operation Ghost investigation. Hundreds of charges have been laid against more 38 people in an inquiry where nearly 600kg of drugs have been seized.

But no charges have been laid against Ms Zeng, who lives in East Auckland.

Her lawyer, Paul Wicks, did not oppose the restraining application made by the police in the High Court, but reserved the right to apply to vary and later rescind the order.

The restraining order made under the Criminal Proceeds (Recovery) Act means she cannot sell or control any of the property.

The law essentially forces someone to prove how an asset was paid for, even if they are acquitted or criminal charges are not laid.

These cases are determined by the civil level of proof, the "balance of probabilities", rather than the much higher criminal evidential threshold of "beyond reasonable doubt".

Mr Wicks said restraining assets of someone who was not charged was "unusual but it is possible under the act".

"Obviously, this puts them in a different position to all the others [who have been charged]. Insofar as I'm concerned, there is a tenuous link of criminal involvement," he said. "But obviously not enough to prosecute and ultimately not enough to sustain these orders. But that's for another day."

Exactly what assets had been restrained was not read out in court, but a Herald search of publicly available databases revealed significant wealth.

Ms Zeng owns a 2012 Porsche Cayenne and a 2009 Maserati Gran Turismo, which sell for around $150,000 second-hand.

She also owns a large home in Auckland with a capital value of $820,000 and an apartment in the CBD with a capital value of $405,000. The market value for each is likely to be significantly more.

Ms Zeng also has an interest in a 2.5ha lifestyle block in Papakura which is for sale for $3.9 million and is the director of a business which had its bank accounts frozen.

Yingzi Zeng

* No charges have been laid but millions in assets have been seized, including:
* Late-model Porsche and Maserati.
* Home, apartment and lifestyle block in Auckland.
* Bank accounts and businesses.

- NZ Herald

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