Gao jailed, $3.8m still missing

"Accidental millionaire" Hui "Leo" Gao has been jailed but his accomplice and former girlfriend Kara Hurring has avoided imprisonment after they skipped the country following a multi-million dollar banking error.



The 32-year-old former Rotorua businessman, sentenced in Rotorua District Court on Friday, has been jailed for four years and seven months.

Hurring, 33, was sentenced to nine months' home detention ordered to pay reparation of $11,830, money she withdrew using Gao's credit card.

In April 2009 a bank error saw Gao's Westpac bank account credited with $10 million instead of the $100,000 overdraft he wanted so he could revamp his Rotorua petrol station and sell it.

Gao managed to transfer $6.7m to overseas accounts before his accounts were frozen and he and Hurring fled New Zealand for China.

Gao and Hurring, who gave birth to his son while they were overseas, became known as the "runaway" or "accidental" millionaires.

Westpac has since recovered $2.9m although another $3.8m remains outstanding. The bank is not commenting following the sentencing.

Hurring was arrested when she returned to New Zealand last February. She was found guilty following a trial in May of 25 counts of theft, three of using a bank card for pecuniary advantage and two of money laundering.

Gao was arrested last September trying to enter Hong Kong from China and was extradited to New Zealand. He pleaded guilty to seven counts of theft.

Gao's lawyer Roy Mansfield on Friday said his client's level of culpability was low, the offending was not pre-meditated and that Gao had succumbed to temptation.

Hurring's lawyer Simon Lance said other than ATM withdrawals using Gao's credit card for living expenses and some clothing, she did not benefit from her involvement in the offending.

Judge Philip Cooper said while he accepted the offending was opportunistic, Gao made a determined, persistent effort to transfer as much of the money out of New Zealand as possible.

There was still a significant amount unaccounted for, with no explanation from Gao and some funds were recovered only through the bank's efforts.

"You fled the country and were essentially on the run for two-and-a-half years until your arrest in Hong Kong. You were arrested because you were located by Hong Kong authorities, not because you handed yourself in."

Hurring had used Gao's credit card knowing he stole the money from Westpac, then helped him conceal what he had transferred by opening a casino account on her arrival in Macau, Judge Cooper said.

However, there was no doubt it was Gao who had organised the opening of that account and Hurring's role was essentially to put a signature to a document, he said.

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