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Jared Savage

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

Major drug case suspect a $14m roller at casino

Exclusive: Assets and money seized from man who earned little but gambled big

Documents show that Yang gambled millions of dollars at the SkyCity casino despite having a "modest" declared income. Photo / HOS
Documents show that Yang gambled millions of dollars at the SkyCity casino despite having a "modest" declared income. Photo / HOS

A suspect in a record-breaking drug investigation had a gambling turnover of $14 million at SkyCity Casino despite declaring an income of just $4,217 over the same time period.

Zhi Wei Yang also bought a mortgage-free home for $1 million, controlled several bank accounts holding nearly $700,000 and owned a jewellery collection that included a $43,000 diamond ring.

He has been named in court documents with supplying pseudoephedrine as an alleged "substantial wholesaler" of the drug used to manufacture methamphetamine following one of the largest covert inquiries in New Zealand.

Nearly 600kg of the Class-B drug was seized in Operation Ghost. Police say this is enough to produce $172 million worth of P.

At least 30 people were arrested in police raids in December but Yang was overseas at the time.

The 51-year-old has not returned to face the criminal charges, but the police have obtained a court order to freeze his alleged "tainted property" in a separate civil case.

This includes a mortgage-free home bought for $1 million and several bank accounts, including one with $504,000.

Yang was identified through surveillance and tapped phone conversations and police allege he was a "very substantial wholesaler" of pseudoephedrine.

"The inference available is that his assets would have been funded, at least in part, through criminal activity," according to the police application on the court file, to which the Herald was granted access.

The documents show that Yang gambled millions of dollars at the casino despite having a "modest" declared income.

In the 19-month period leading up to the Operation Ghost raids, Yang had a "buy-in" figure of more than $2 million and a gambling turnover - the total of money spent and winnings - in excess of $14 million at SkyCity.

He earned just $4,217 over the same period, or $222 a month, according to Inland Revenue documents on the High Court file.

The Herald revealed in December that several other Operation Ghost targets spent millions of dollars at the casino. Their gambling records have also been examined.

A spokesman for SkyCity said the casino had co-operated fully with the police and the Department of Internal Affairs and "fully discharged" its legal responsibilities, which he could not elaborate on because of legal restrictions.

"We take our responsibilities in this area very seriously. We place a very strong emphasis on surveillance and security, spending millions of dollars on this each year. We work very closely with the police and other enforcement agencies."

The assets will be restrained under the Criminal Proceeds (Recovery) Act. The law essentially forces someone to prove how an asset was paid for.

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".


'Tainted property'

Zhi Wei Yang, 51

• Alleged to have supplied pseudoephedrine, but avoided arrest as he was overseas.

Police have restrained his assets including

• A mortgage-free home purchased for $1 million
• Several bank accounts holding $79,000, $36,000, $72,000 and $504,000
• 33 pieces of jewellery, including a $43,000 diamond ring and a $33,000 pearl pendant
• More than $10,000 in cash
• SkyCity Casino records show Yang had a gambling turnover of more than $14 million in 19 months. Over the same period, he earned $4,217, according to Inland Revenue records.

- NZ Herald

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