A SYDNEY man accused of selling replica firearms at AgQuip has been granted bail, after the court heard the toy-like, colourful guns were being sold in Queensland last week.
Jaincong Zheng was arrested at the AgQuip stall he was working at in Gunnedah on Thursday morning, after a tip-off to police.
Oxley police seized what they say is 106 replica firearms, which they allege are prohibited items.
But on Friday, Tamworth Local Court heard there was a limited description of the guns and no photos in the police evidence, with Zheng's solicitor arguing there was a "mistakable" argument to the law.
"They're not machine guns or firearms that can be used in a bank robbery," he said.
"They're colourful in colour, lightweight; they're toy-like ... for comic people," he said.
He said there was "plenty of room for Mr Zheng to argue those firearms are not replicas".
Police prosecutor Sergeant Alix Thom opposed bail, and conceded "we might need to see photos of the firearms" because "that may effect the seriousness".
She argued Zheng was a flight risk, given the maximum penalty of 14 years' jail for the offences since "these are illegal sales ... the illegal tenders"; and community safety was paramount.
Magistrate Julie Soars said the "replica firearms in the police case ... were being openly sold in public".
There is no suggestion that this was set up in a hidden area.Sergeant Alix Thom
"There is no suggestion that this was set up in a hidden area," Sergeant Thom said.
Ms Soars said although they were serious allegations, they involved "firearms which were colourfully painted, light in weight ... more like a child's toy".
"He had been selling items just last week in Brisbane, under a similar nature," she said, pointing to a difference in the laws, and the recommendation to sell at AgQuip.
"Potentially has a mistake of law defence ... [that he] didn't know it was an offence."
Police will allege 45 pistols, 18 air pistols, 42 sub machine guns and one assault rifle were being offered for sale. The officers also seized all firearms and more than $5000 cash.
Zheng is facing seven charges including carrying on the activities of a firearms dealer without being licensed; possessing unregistered pistols and prohibited guns; possessing ammunition; and dealing with the proceeds of crime.
His solicitor said Zheng was "an ordinary business person" who sold items at shows across Australia, and that the family business had more than 100 items on the shelf to be sold to the public.
"They've been doing this in Queensland ... the regulations relating to replica firearms in Queensland are much softer," he said.
They've been doing this in Queensland ... the regulations relating to replica firearms in Queensland are much softer.Zheng's solicitor
The court heard Zheng was told it "was fine to sell them" and it "might be a good opportunity for their business" if they sold at AgQuip.
"Even last weekend selling those exact same items in Queensland and had no problem with it," his solicitor said.
"[It was] suggested last-minute by another exhibitor."
The court heard Zheng was an Australian citizen who had arrived seven years ago, had a family and owned a Sydney home.
He moved around "participating in different shows" across Australia, with more scheduled in September.
"The whole family's finance depends on Mr Zheng's business activities," his solicitor said.
Zheng is facing a charge in relation to a circle butterfly knife, which is being defended at a hearing in a Sydney court, but is "nothing like what is in this matter", the court was told.
Ms Soars said bail conditions could mitigate the risks and, while they were "very serious charges" involving guns, it appeared in evidence that he might have "made a mistake whether he was entitled to sell it".
She ordered Zheng to live in Sydney, post $2000 in surety, surrender his passport and report to police once a week.
Zheng's solicitor said "those are the last stocks he has, all of them seized by police" and he would agree to a condition "not to possess or sell replica or toy firearms".
The case has been adjourned to September for Zheng to get legal advice and enter pleas.
AgQuip organisers move
ACM Rural Events group manager and AgQuip organiser, Kate Nugent, told the Leader the accused and the principal exhibitor had been blacklisted, after the police operation.
"What has happened is our principal exhibitor has allowed this stallholder in, what we call a 'piggybacker', and we were unaware," she said.
"In collaboration with authorities, we became aware, police moved in ... the items that were being sold are illegal in NSW."
She confirmed the principal exhibitor was an interstate organisation that had been coming to AgQuip for several years.
Ms Nugent said the incident was "a breach of the terms and conditions of participation" and the organisers had moved quickly with regulatory authorities.