In January 2020, as Elizabeth Zhong and business partner Fang Sun were engaged in a heated civil battle over control of their multi-million dollar company, Zhong filed a sworn affidavit to the court stating that Sun boasted of gang connections overseas and warned her she wasn't safe.
Eleven months later, Zhong, 55, would be found dead - stabbed over 20 times - in the boot of her Land Rover.
That affidavit and multiple other threat reports were read aloud to jurors today at Sun's murder trial in the High Court at Auckland. He is accused of having attacked Zhong in the bedroom of her East Auckland home on the night of November 27, 2020.
Among the statements read today was a subsequent March 2020 affidavit at the North Shore Police Centre in which jurors heard, in Zhong's own words, the unease the alleged threats had caused.
"During these discussions [to resolve the civil case], Fang has become angry and furious at me," she told police. "His face turns red and he starts waving his arms. He has made verbal threats and tried to intimidate me."
She described a November 2019 meeting at a cafe in which the two tried but failed to resolve their differences.
"As no agreement could be made, Fang got excited and stated, 'You'll be in trouble'," she reported.
"I replied, 'I don't care.'"
She recalled Sun then saying: "It's not me. It's the Hong Kong guys. They will be always after you."
When Zhong replied she would wait for the civil court decision to resolve the matter, Sun is alleged to have said: "Court won't kill you, but they will."
"I am already more than 50 years old, so I don't mind," Zhong told police she responded.
Sun, she said, then said, "No, no, no. It's not only you. It involves your whole family."
Zhong also described in the police affidavit having received over 10 phone calls at a time from the defendant, which she described as harassment.
"Now my whole family have started to have their lives interrupted by some private investigators engaged by Fang," she said. "I feel very stressed and scared.
"The threats make me very scared."
In an October affidavit to the High Court, Zhong said Sun "has threatened me that if I do not behave, he will kill me". She repeated the allegation in a March 2020 affidavit to the High Court, stating: "Mr Fang Sun has been threatening to kill me. He is now turning to my family ... I am dealing with this issue with the police."
In April of that year, she returned to police with an online report.
"I am horrified by the ongoing threats made by Mr Fang Sun and [a private investigator he employed] and I am concerned about the safety for my friends, myself and my family members," she wrote.
Jurors were also read an email she sent to BNZ in August that year as she pleaded with the bank not to sell off her Sunnyhills home. She "almost couldn't breathe" because of Fang's "ruthless behaviour", she wrote.
"He is trying to suffocate me in every way he could," she told the bank. "The series of terrible things [that] happened already make me very upset, angry and desperate, selling of [her home] will be the last straw to break me down. I need a shelter to keep me functioning."
Two BNZ employees were called to testify today about their own impressions of the estranged business partners. Senior credit manager Peter Farrow described an "unusual" meeting he hosted to discuss one of their businesses that had gone into receivership but resulted in the pair talking in raised voices and appearing to argue in Mandarin.
"Mr Sun appeared very angry and accused the receiver of colluding with Elizabeth to ... sell the assets of the business for less than fair value," he recalled.
BNZ manager Ennis Young recounted another meeting with Zhong.
"As she was leaving, she mentioned the pressure she was under from a shareholder [and said] the way they were acting was like gangsters and she feared for her life," Young said, adding that he couldn't recall if she identified the shareholder by name.
Jurors also learned that Sun had filed a report with police against Zhong. In February 2020, a few weeks before Zhong's police report, he told police she had embezzled roughly $20 million from their business.