Synthetics jury told it must set aside prejudices

A jury has been told it must set aside sympathy and prejudice and keep an open mind as it begins hearing evidence in a six-week synthetic cannabis dealing trial at the Christchurch District Court.

Defence counsel Anselm Williams told the jury of 11 that everyone had “prejudices, sympathies, and biases that inform decisions we make every day”.

“Don’t let this impact on the decisions you make and way in which you assess the evidence. Keep an open mind,” he said. “Remember, there is always more to things than meets they eye. Take that into account as we start what is going to be a reasonably long and detailed trial.”

He said they must not let any views they held about drugs or synthetic drugs colour their view of the evidence.

Mr Williams was making a brief defence opening statement on the second day of the trial, where interpreters are working to translate the trial into Mandarin for three of the four defendants.

On trial are Xiwen Miao, a 30-year-old chef, Sui Jun Zhou, a 34-year-old real estate agent, Fei He, 48, and Heng Fu, 35.

The defendants face various combinations of the 22 charges on the Crown charge list. It lists four charges of possession of psychoactive substances for sale, five of selling or supplying non-approved psychoactive substances, five of possession of the substances for supply, and eight charges of money laundering.

As the trial began, Zhou pleaded guilty to charges of unlawful possession of a stun torch – a restricted weapon – as well as a shotgun and ammunition. Hu appears on only one representative charge, of selling or supplying a psycho-active substance.

In the first part of the Crown opening address, the jury was told that 173kg of synthetic cannabis was found as the police ended their Operation Sin investigationin May 2016. The value of the synthetic drugs was put at between $3 million and $4 million.

Crown prosecutor Karyn South said as she continued her opening address that testing by ESR had shown that the material found contained known psycho-active substances, and this had been confirmed by another scientist at Auckland University, who would also give evidence at the trial.

She said that laundering the proceeds of sales of unapproved psycho-active substances had become illegal on November 7, 2015, and the charges against the defendants dated from that time.

People in the network had been reluctant to go to the bank and deposit large amounts of cash that the network was taking in. Some money was transferred overseas, or used for loans, or used to pay for vehicles and a property, according to the charges.

After translation of the opening addresses, the trial before Judge Stephen O’Driscoll began to hear evidence.