'Accidental' NZ millionaire returns to face court

AP News
Posted: Mar 09, 2011 7:53 PM
'Accidental' NZ millionaire returns to face court

A New Zealand woman who fled to China with her Chinese partner after a banking error deposited millions of dollars in their bank account appeared in a New Zealand court Thursday to face multimillion dollar theft charges.

Kara Hurring and her then-partner Hui "Leo" Gao disappeared in 2009, two days after a bank mistakenly handed them a credit line of 10 million New Zealand dollars ($6.1 million) _ 100 times their approved limit of NZ$100,000 ($61,000).

An account holder then tried to transfer about $4 million out of the account, but the bank was able to recover $1.7 million, the bank said at the time. It did not specify how it got the money back.

At the time the pair left, they were dubbed "The Accidental Millionaires."

Hurring, 31, and Gao face one charge each of stealing $4.99 million from Westpac Bank in the North Island city of Rotorua on April 24, 2009.

Hurring and Gao are also charged with eight counts each of money laundering of amounts ranging from $266,000 to $368,000.

Gao is believed to still be in China and New Zealand police said recently they were working with Chinese authorities to track him down.

At the time the credit line transfer mess-up emerged, Westpac said the couple, who ran a gas station in Rotorua _ a favorite tourist destination known for its scenery, sparkling lakes and geysers _ had the equivalent of a $61,000 credit limit.

In formalizing the couple's limit, the bank accidentally opened a line of credit for $6.1 million.

Initial details from the bank indicated that amount of money had actually been deposited into their account, but Westpac had managed to recover some of it.

Hurring appeared in Rotorua District Court on Thursday, where her attorney, Simon Lance, asked for her to be remanded on bail.

Judge Jocelyn Munroe ordered her to reappear in court March 21. The media was restricted from reporting the bail conditions.

Outside court, Lance said Hurring would fight the charges and that she denied any involvement in them. He did not elaborate, but said she had returned to New Zealand voluntarily.