Chinese Restaurant Owner Faces $141k Forfeiture for Illegal Gambling and Money Laundering

Robert Longthorpe - Senior Writer
Robert Longthorpe
16 May 2023 in News
Auckland Chinese Restaurant Owner Faces $141k Forfeiture

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Yanxian Liu, the owner of a Chinese restaurant in Newmarket, Auckland, has been ordered to forfeit $141,000 to the Crown after police found evidence of illegal money-lending, unlicensed mahjong gambling sessions, and the sale of Chinese cigarettes without proper customs documentation and health warnings. Authorities discovered $141,480 in cash, 14,000 Chinese cigarettes, and 1.5 kg of loose tobacco at Liu's house in Favona, Auckland during a search in June 2021. An inquiry with Customs revealed that Liu failed to pay duty or GST on imported cigarettes or tobacco.

High Court Ruling on Asset Forfeiture

Justice Ian Gault of the High Court ruled on an application by the Commissioner of Police to have the money forfeited to the Crown under the Criminal Proceeds (Recovery) Act. This legislation allows for the forfeiture of money gained through significant criminal activity. Liu confessed to the police that the cash in question was the result of mahjong gambling sessions held at his Newmarket restaurant, of which he claimed to be a part-owner. The Department of Internal Affairs confirmed that no gambling licenses had been issued to any society or promoter of mahjong gambling in the area.

Unregistered Financial Services Provider

Liu also admitted to participating in "loan-sharking" activities. Justice Gault noted that Liu was not a registered financial services provider and had not declared any earnings from his loan-sharking activities to Inland Revenue. However, Liu did not face any charges in relation to the search at his home. Despite being given the opportunity to engage a lawyer, Liu chose not to oppose the forfeiture application. When he met a detective at his home the previous month, he told him, "just take it."

Lack of Prosecution: A Mysterious Decision

Neither the media nor law enforcement authorities have provided a clear explanation as to why Liu has not been prosecuted, despite his apparent criminal activities. It is possible that the amount Liu was required to forfeit exceeded any potential fine he might have faced, leading prosecutors to determine that the forfeiture of funds was punishment enough.

Criminal Penalties for Illegal Gambling and Money Lending in New Zealand

In New Zealand, those found hosting illegal gambling activities can face fines of up to NZ$10,000 ($6,229), according to the Department of Internal Affairs. The penalties for engaging in illegal money lending, or loan sharking, are even more severe, with fines reaching up to NZ$600,000 ($373,740) in extreme cases. Importing large quantities of tobacco without the necessary permits is also heavily regulated by New Zealand customs, with violators facing a minimum fine of NZ$400 ($249).

The Link Between Chinese Expatriates and Debt

Many Chinese individuals seeking to emigrate are burdened with lifelong debts, which they must repay by working in or managing businesses overseas. If these individuals fail to meet their repayment obligations, the debt holders, often Chinese criminal organizations known as triads, have been known to resort to extreme measures such as torture, harm to family members, or even fatalities.

Regulation of Illegal Gambling in New Zealand

The Department of Internal Affairs oversees gambling activities in New Zealand under the Gambling Act of 2003. To operate legally, gambling operators must be authorized and follow strict regulations. The gambling regulator works to eliminate illegal gambling operations, and those found offering illegal gambling services can face criminal charges, including fines and imprisonment. In Liu's case, however, no charges were filed against him, even though his illegal earnings were confiscated.

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