A Chinese-born man who hid guns in his Auckland home's insulation and lied to police, claiming they were stolen, in a bid to avoid the buy-back scheme must wait three years before he can apply for citizenship.
Haowen Ma was sentenced in the North Shore District Court last year to 80 hours of community work and fined $1000 over the relatively serious waste of police time.
Now, after the judgement was released to the Herald after six months, it can be revealed Ma tried to avoid conviction because he feared it would delay his ability to apply for citizenship.
He first moved to New Zealand as an international student before gaining permanent residency.
The saga began on July 18, 2019, when Ma told police his Coatesville property had been robbed while he was away in Rotorua.
The then 25-year-old claimed somebody had broken into his garage and stolen two registered air category semi-automatic action firearms from the locked gun safe.
Two days later, however, police carried out a forensic examination at the address which showed the safe had been unlocked.
The police had concerns over the veracity of the complaint and used a search warrant to seize Ma's electronic devices.
Ma maintained in a video interview with police that a burglary had occurred and said he might have left the safe unlocked because he had trouble with the lock's combination.
However, text messages on Ma's phone to his partner showed the burglary had been staged and the missing guns were concealed at their home.
Upon his arrest, he told police the stash of firearms was hidden in a ceiling cavity in the walk-in-wardrobe underneath insulating Pink Batts.
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The find included two additional firearms that the police did not know about.
In the police interview that followed, he admitted making the false statement and explained he was unhappy with the Government's gun buy-back proposal in the wake of the Christchurch terror attacks.
He said he would have received a low price for the weapons and instead wanted to keep them for his collection.
Community Magistrate Lavinia Nathan said Ma believed the law reform was "unjust" considering he had been a law-abiding member of the community and held a firearm licence.
Nathan said it was "premeditated systemic offending".
First came the idea, then the execution of it, she said, followed by a "conscious decision to lie to the police" and the creation of an explanation as to why the safe was unlocked.
It was not until confronted with his own texts that he "realised perhaps the game was up", Nathan said.
"Your counsel accepts this is relatively serious offending in terms of wasting police time."
Ma had never appeared before the court before and the mitigating factors at his sentencing included his early guilty plea, while a psychologist confirmed he was of a low- risk of reoffending.
Ma also claimed police were disinterested in two earlier burglaries he reported and believed he was best placed to secure himself in the future.
"You say that whilst you were living at your previous property you were burgled on two occasions," Nathan said.
"Because of those burglaries you say some $80,000 worth of property was lost. You were frightened and scared.
"You purchased a bullet-proof vest and it gives a background as to your historical interest in firearms."
Ma's lawyer said his client might lose his job and also the directorship of his family-business if convicted.
At the time of sentencing in November, Ma had not disclosed the offending to his employer.
"You have made a conscious decision not to do that although knowing, for a couple of months, that these matters were before the court," Nathan said.
The court heard there were consequences to dishonesty and furthermore, however, considering he owned the company perhaps rules could be changed in respect of the latter.
The issue of citizenship, however, could not be determined at sentencing and it would be delayed three years to enable Ma to demonstrate good-character behaviour.
As part of his sentence, Ma was convicted and ordered to pay $1000 to the New Zealand Police, as well as court costs of $130.
He was also sentenced to 80 hours of community work.