A young father who drifted into gambling, drugs and prostitutes made a fatal error when crossing a local crime boss, the Desert Rd murder trial has been told.
Almost four years have passed since Bao Chang "Ricky" Wang was killed in Auckland and his body dumped 370km away.
Today, Zhicheng Gu and Jianqi Zhao pleaded not guilty to Wang's murder.
Defence lawyers said the prosecution case was based on the words of a deceitful, self-serving loan shark.
But Crown prosecutor David Johnstone said Zhao was a pistol-brandishing crime boss known as "Uncle Six" who had Wang killed for a real or perceived betrayal.
Wang's arms, chest and stomach were slashed and he was beaten, with both jaws and many teeth broken, Johnstone told the High Court at Auckland.
Just a few years before his death, Wang and his new wife Susan had two young children and lived on the North Shore, in a house Susan's parents bought for the newlyweds.
But Johnstone said the couple's relationship unravelled - and in one of many arguments, Wang made startling admissions which led to a marital breakdown.
"He admitted that he had gotten into the habits of gambling, seeing prostitutes, and taking drugs."
Johnstone said Wang then spent long spells away from home, shifting out for good in 2016, and shacking up in 2017 with a new girlfriend in a Symonds St apartment.
All the while, Wang was sucked deeper into a murky underworld which the Crown said involved Chinese migrants making and dealing meth to fund a hedonistic lifestyle.
Johnstone said Wang made a terrible miscalculation, perhaps trying to outmanoeuvre Zhao in a deal, or delivering substandard methamphetamine to Zhao.
"I say Ricky Wang made a fatal error because of how Mr Zhao responded."
He said Wang was lured to a West Auckland house which Gu, known as Michael, had rented for meth manufacturing.
On orders from "Uncle Six", men tied Wang to a chair in the kitchen, Johnstone said.
"And they killed him. Michael Gu used a knife to cut Ricky Wang's arms, his chest and his stomach.
"Ricky Wang's jaw, his upper jaw and his lower jaw and his teeth were broken as a result of multiple blows. Blood flowed across the floor," Johnstone added.
"And when it was done, Mr Zhao arranged the cover-up."
The prosecutor said Wang's body was put in a freezer, loaded into a van, eventually taken after several scouting trips to the remote Rangipo Intake Rd.
Jurors heard that almost two years later, former massage parlour owner Tony Piao contacted police from Waikeria Prison, claiming to know about Wang's death.
Piao said Wang had been murdered, Zhao and Gu were the killers, he was there when it happened, and he helped transport the body.
The prosecutor said Zhao once dubbed Piao "The Brothel Boss", and Piao was a friend of Wang's years earlier, even lending him money.
The Crown claimed Piao had a photograph showing Zhao in the McWhirters Farm Lane house where Wang was killed.
Zhao's defence counsel Ron Mansfield QC said the grim reality prosecutors painted relied heavily on one witness - Piao.
"He was a loan shark, a brothel keeper, a commercial drug dealer in meth, a successful and persuasive liar, and a crafty opportunist."
Mansfield said Piao sought to downplay his own offending and cut a deal with authorities by offering up other people.
Mansfield said Zhao had no motive to kill Wang, and had told police the men were friends.
Gu's lawyer Julie-Anne Kincade QC said Piao was a serial liar.
She said Piao lived his life by the mantra: "Money above all else, even above life itself."
Kincade said Piao was arrested in January 2019, and had to take drastic action to avert financial disaster.
"He took some drastic steps and got in touch with [police] and here we all are."
The trial before Justice Graham Lang and the jury continues.