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Sui Jun Zhou (second from far right) has lost an appeal against his jail sentence. Photo / Kurt Bayer
A Christchurch synthetic cannabis dealer has lost a legal battle with the Commissioner of Police to keep more than $2 million in illegal profits, secured from the sale of synthetic cannabis, which was found in the possession of the dealer and others.
The dealer, Sui Jun Zhou, owned Levonz Investment Limited and was sentenced to 26 months in jail for his involvement in a synthetic drug dealing operation. Sui Jun Zhou was considered the “right-hand man” or lieutenant to Fei He who owned the Sockburn Dairy out of which the operation was run.
After police terminated their lengthy investigation in 2016, they found 173 kilograms of synthetic cannabis with Zhou and his associates.
Zhou pleaded guilty to charges of selling or supplying non-approved psychoactive substances, as well as possession or supply of non-approved psychoactive substances.
Justice Jan-Marie Doogue found that Zhou and his company had obtained $2,214,000 in unlawful benefit and ruled that the Commissioner of Police was entitled to recover that amount under the Criminal Proceeds (Recovery) Act from Zhou and Levonz Investment Limited. Zhou’s challenge against this ruling was dismissed by the Court of Appeal on May 2, 2023.
His lawyers challenged the final calculation of his ill-gotten gains, arguing that the price per gram used did not take into account wholesale customers and that some of the profit derived from the sale of a legal substance in conjunction with the synthetic cannabis, which was rejected by the Court of Appeal. The Court found other arguments inconsistent with the fact that Zhou had pleaded guilty to hundreds of sales of synthetic cannabis.
Zhou’s legal team also argued that the Commissioner unreasonably recovered twice from the benefit received by Zhou and He, who was subject to a $3.5m profit forfeiture order. The Court of Appeal rejected this argument, as it found Zhou did not prove he and He were jointly benefiting from the offending.
Zhou’s last appeal challenged Justice Doogue’s failure to assess his claim that he would suffer undue hardship unless all his real estate property was excluded from the order, which also failed to gain any traction with the Court of Appeal. Justice Collins said Mr. Zhou did not raise any matters that went beyond the hardship that most people would suffer if they had their property confiscated under the Act.
The appeal was dismissed and the Commissioner of Police was entitled to costs.