Saturday, November 11, 2006

Murder-accused 'was victim's mate'

Thursday November 9, 2006By David Eames
A man said to have carried out a contract killing for an Asian gang considered his victim as a "brother", at one time working for him in his Auckland restaurant, a court was told yesterday.
Wan Yee Chow is accused of shooting Tam Yam Ah as he climbed from his BMW car outside the Top Karaoke Bar in Symonds Street, central Auckland, in the early hours of July 7 last year.
Mr Tam, 37, was a part-owner of the bar. He also owned the Flower City Restaurant in Anzac Ave, ran a loansharking business, and was a reputed enforcer for the 14-k Triad gang.
The Crown says Chow, who at the time was based in Wellington, made the trip to Auckland with an accomplice to carry out the killing, but prosecutor Kieran Raftery was yesterday unsure of a motive for the killing. A paua deal gone bad was one possible explanation, retribution for money unpaid was another, he told the High Court at Auckland.
Mr Tam's murder could also have been a contract killing, he said.
"It was a simple, cold-blooded act of killing."
Chow's alleged accomplice - whose identity is suppressed - will give evidence against him later in the trial, and has been granted immunity from prosecution.
A woman who saw the killing from the passenger seat of Mr Tam's car yesterday gave her recollection of the shooting.
Mr Tam had locked her in the car after seeing his assailant approaching, the court was told, and she had to smash the passenger window to escape. Speaking through an interpreter, she said: "I felt very strange. I thought it was a robbery, and then suddenly a gun fired."
She broke out of the car to find Mr Tam lying on the ground, his killer gone. "I found he had breathing difficulties. Then I asked him what had happened. He didn't give me any answer."
Mr Tam had been shot once in the chest, and was dead before the ambulance arrived.
She said Chow had arrived in New Zealand about two weeks before the opening of the Flower City Restaurant, in May last year, and had been met at the airport by Mr Tam.
The woman - whose name is suppressed - said the pair greeted one another in a "friendly way, like a brother".
However, she said the pair appeared to have a falling out about a month before the killing, after Chow was hit in the face during an argument involving Mr Tam and an unidentified Maori man.
On the night of the shooting, the woman stared into the balaclava-clad face of Mr Tam's attacker, and yesterday told the court the man's build reminded her of Chow, who denies murder.
But under cross examination by defence counsel Peter Kaye, the woman hinted at possible gang tensions between the Triad-affiliated Mr Tam and another man connected with Taiwanese organised crime.
She agreed with an assertion by Mr Kaye that Mr Tam had been accused of destroying the Taiwanese gang's business, and creating problems between the Taiwanese and the Hong Kong-based 14-k. She also outlined some of Mr Tam's business dealings, which included a cash payment of $110,000 as part payment for the Top Karaoke Bar, and $30,000 cash paid as part of a deposit on a Mt Albert property.
The woman was to continue giving evidence today. The trial, before Justice Patricia Courtney, is set to last two weeks.

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