Wellington landlord

PHOTO: The Pillow Talk website says it has “private and discreet areas” in Johnsonville and Petone. FILE

According to STUFF  a Wellington brothel owner didn’t pay tax for years, and some of the time he was also claiming an income-tested benefit, so he was able to accumulate substantial assets here and in China, a judge says.

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Zhi (Wayne) Zhou, 40, had already paid $300,000 and in the Wellington District Court on Friday Judge Chris Tuohy ordered him to pay another $150,000 reparation within 28 days.

The $450,000 he will soon have paid would go towards his ultimate tax bill, which is yet to be assessed but the Inland Revenue Department thought it was at least $663,000.

The judge said Zhou could sell one of his rental properties or increase his mortgage. He also had substantial investments in China.

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Zhou was at risk of being sent to prison on the tax-evasion charges but, after giving him credit for his guilty plea, paying some of the reparation before sentencing, and having no previous convictions, the judge sentenced him to 11 months’ home detention and 150 hours of community work.

The maximum penalty for the charges was five years’ jail, but a prison term would have been very damaging for Zhou’s wife and sons, and prison would mean the end of his business, the judge said.

The fact of the matter was that the women who worked for Zhou said he was very good to work with in an industry where, apparently, that was not widespread, he said.


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Sex workers’ activist Dame Catherine Healy was at court for Zhou’s sentencing. Afterwards she said the women were loyal to Zhou and they would be relieved they wouldn’t lose the Pillow Talk venues that he runs.

The Pillow Talk website says it has “private and discreet areas” in Johnsonville and Petone.

Zhou confirmed afterwards that about 20 women worked there.

The judge said he considered the position of the women, just as he would do if he was dealing with any business. Zhou was not prosecuted for running a brothel or mistreating anyone, he said.

If the business was to close it would take away an environment in which the women felt secure and was fair to them, in their view.

Prosecutor Tim Bain had asked for Zhou to be ordered to pay $660,000. The business was taking in at least $1m a year.

Even as the case was underway Zhou continued to lie to the court and IRD about the scale of the business. He had investment properties in which IRD believed there were millions of dollars equity, as well as cash in various people’s names in New Zealand and in China, Bain said.

Zhou’s lawyer, Mary Nelson, said the reparation Zhou had paid so far had come from his wife and mother.