HK grants NZ "accidental millionaire" extradition

AP News
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Posted: Nov 28, 2011 11:49 PM
HK grants NZ "accidental millionaire" extradition

Hong Kong may soon extradite a New Zealand gas station owner suspected of withdrawing millions of dollars and going on the run after a bank mistakenly gave him a huge line of credit.

Hong Kong judiciary officials said Monday that a New Zealand application for the extradition of Hui "Leo" Gao was approved by a judge Oct. 27. They gave no more details, but Hong Kong extradition cases also typically need to be referred to China's central government in Beijing and then approved by the territory's leader.

Gao, who was arrested in Hong Kong in September, is wanted in New Zealand along with his former partner Kara Hurring on theft and money laundering charges in a case dubbed "the accidental millionaires."

He and Hurring ran a gas station in the scenic New Zealand tourist destination of Rotorua when they mistakenly received a 10 million New Zealand dollar ($7.6 million) credit line _ 100 times their approved limit.

New Zealand police have said NZ$6.78 million was transferred out of the account, though the bank later recovered nearly half.

Hurring has since returned to New Zealand voluntarily to face theft charges, which she denies. She is due to stand trial in February, New Zealand police said.

Police stopped Gao in September when he tried to enter Hong Kong from mainland China.

New Zealand police said Tuesday they haven't yet heard from Hong Kong authorities about when Gao would be sent back.

"We haven't received any notification about developments or a timeframe from Hong Kong, so we are in a holding pattern," said Jacky James, a Bay of Plenty police spokeswoman

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AP Writer Nick Perry in Wellington contributed to this report.