A meth dealer's boasts to an undercover cop triggered a new police investigation into his father's financial affairs and a three year legal battle over $10 million and 15 commercial properties in Gisborne.

More than $10 million and a commercial property empire owned by a wealthy Singaporean couple have been frozen following a police investigation into their son's meth dealing.

Thomas Cheng, living in Gisborne, was sentenced to 10 years in prison in February last year after being convicted of importing and supplying methamphetamine.

He boasted to an undercover police officer about owning a large number of properties in New Zealand, six of which were restrained under the Criminal Proceeds Recovery Act shortly after his arrest in 2016.

The commercial properties were in fact owned by companies associated with his father, William Cheng, and wife Nyioh Chew Hong who still live in Singapore.


The police continued to investigate the "complex" ownership structure and then successfully to the High Court to restrain another nine commercial properties and $10m held in New Zealand bank accounts.

The total value of the 15 properties is estimated to be worth more than $10m.

While the first set of properties were restrained by the High Court on the grounds of Thomas Cheng's meth dealing and alleged money laundering, the second freezing order was granted on suspicion of tax evasion and money laundering by his parents.

Read more:
Bill Liu's secret $43m deal with China

Nearly $20m linked to Head Hunter boss - police

Inside NZ's $50m designer drug ring

Nearly $70m frozen in NZ as part of China-Canada pyramid scheme probe

Last month, lawyers for the Singaporean couple sought to have the freezing orders lifted because of insufficient evidence and the length of time the orders had been in place.


This was rejected by Justice Christine Grice last week, who in a judgment released last week, said the police investigation into their financial affairs is still ongoing, including inquiries in Hong Kong and Singapore.

No income tax has been paid from the rental income on the properties and William Cheng and Nyioh had provided false information to convince the Companies Office they lived in New Zealand, said Justice Grice.

The couple also applied for New Zealand residency but were unable to satisfy Immigration New Zealand of the origin of the $10m held in the bank accounts.

The restraining orders were set to expire in May this year but the police asked for a 12-month extension to complete the investigation.

This was opposed by the legal team for the Chengs and Nyioh but Justice Grice said the explanation by police for the delay was reasonable.

"Money laundering is usually complex, particularly where it involves multiple foreign entities and is difficult to detect and to investigate," she said.


While William Cheng and Nyioh did not have to provide evidence while living overseas, Justice Grice said "they could speed up the process" by supplying the requested documents.

Given the complex structures and the problems in investigating matters overseas, Justice Grice extended the freezing orders for another year but noted that the Police Commissioner "should bring an application for forfeiture as soon as possible".