A "major player" behind New Zealand's biggest ever synthetic drug dealing network has lost a bid to reduce his prison time.
Sui Jun Zhou, a 35-year-old real estate agent, was jailed for 26 months' last November for his role in the operation that spanned the South Island and operated out of the small Sockburn Dairy in Christchurch.
A Christchurch District Court judge ruled that Zhou was the "lieutenant" to Fei He, a 48-year-old woman who masterminded the lucrative venture.
After a police investigation, dubbed Operation Sin from April 2015 to May 2016, Fei He was jailed for 28 months, Zhou for 26 months, and a third player 30-year-old chef Xiwen Miao to eight months' home detention and 250 hours community work.
But Zhou challenged his sentence at the Court of Appeal, claiming his sentence should have been much less than Fei He's.
Zhou was sentenced on six charges, including unlawful possession of a taser or stun gun, unlawful possession of a firearm and ammunition, and possession for supply of a psychoactive substance involving 173kg – the previous biggest operation in New Zealand involved 2.5kg.
It was alleged that Zhou had been turning over between 3–5kg of synthetic cannabis per week.
Between October 2014 and May 2016, the gross weekly proceeds were estimated by the Crown to range between $27,000 and $45,000, yielding a direct profit of between $442,000 and $885,000. Zhou disputed the figures.
Whether those figures were accurate or not, District Court Judge Stephen O'Driscoll said it was clear that the amounts involved were significant – and as Fei He's lieutenant Zhou has been "a major player in the distribution of synthetic cannabis".
The judge was also concerned by the presence of firearms.
At the Court of Appeal, Zhou argued that he should've been dealt with much lighter than Fei He – and even been considered for home detention.
However, the appeal judges rejected his arguments, saying the District Court judge was right to say his offending was aggravated by the presence of firearms charges.
"On any analysis, the sentence imposed by the Judge was not manifestly excessive," the Court of Appeal ruling issued this today states in dismissing Zhou's appeal.