Hurring unaware of $10m error, court told

MIKE WATSON
Last updated 13:45 17/05/2012
Kara Hurring
TRACEY ROBINSON/Fairfax NZ
ON TRIAL: Kara Hurring is on trial in Rotorua on 30 counts of theft, dishonestly using a bank card and money laundering.

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Kara Hurring was unaware of a $10 million banking overdraft error until she saw it on television news in China, a Rotorua court has heard.

Hurring is on trial in Rotorua District Court having pleaded not guilty to 30 charges of theft, dishonestly using a bank card and money laundering after $10m was mistakenly deposited into her former partner, Leo Gao's, business account overdraft facility in April 2009.

The jury this morning watched a 45 minute taped interview between Hurring and Rotorua Detective Scott Thompson recorded when Hurring arrived back in New Zealand in February 2011.

In the interview, Hurring described how Gao began acting "silly" and "crazy" when he discovered his Westpac Bank business overdraft account had been loaded "with lots of zeroes", Hurring said.

The pair was living in Rotorua together having been in an "off and on" relationship while living in Auckland.

Gao had bought a service station in Rotorua and Hurring was helping out working part-time-pumping gas, doing the bookwork.

When the error was discovered, Hurring was not aware the sum was $10m, she said.

Gao was on his laptop in their flat in Rotorua when the account error occurred.

He asked her to look on the screen: "I saw lots of zeroes," she said.

"I was not sure what it was," she said.

"Leo was acting weird, yahooing and going crazy.

"It was bizarre, he was absolutely crazy, like he was on another planet."

Soon after, the couple went to the supermarket to restock the service station.

"Leo was telling everyone he had won Lotto."

The next day Gao went to work and was telling customers he had won Lotto, she said.

She did not have access to any of Gao's accounts, including the business account, and was not aware an overdraft application had been made by Gao with Westpac Bank, she said.

The couple drove to Palmerston North and on return to Rotorua drove to Auckland.

"I just knew something was up, Leo said he had to go to Auckland, but he was acting very secretive, he wouldn't talk to me about anything."

In Auckland, Gao told Hurring to keep busy while he was away for much of the time.

"Finally he said he was going to China and I got upset, I wanted to go with him, I begged him but he didn't want me."

Gao said he wanted to sort things out in China, and got very serious, Hurring said.

"He wasn't certain about anything."

On April 29, Hurring dropped Gao off at Auckland International Airport to fly to Hong Kong.

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A day later, she organised a replacement passport for herself and Gao rang to say she could come over.

"He had arranged a flat for me and Leena [her daughter], and it was all, yeehah."

Hurring drove Gao's ute to the airport and on May 4 flew to Hong Kong, where she immediately got the ferry to Macau to meet at the Wynn's Casino.

She refused to comment on whether she had a casino player's account or if HK$1.5 million ($251,552) was deposited in the account allegedly by Gao.

After two weeks at Macau she went to China with her sister, Aroha.

The pair was watching TV when the news of the $10m banking error came on, she said.

It was the first time she was aware of it.

"After that I knew I was not coming back (to NZ).

"It was very scary, the media had made it look very big news, it was on all the news stations, it was major."

Up to then, Hurring said she thought she was having a holiday with Gao.

"When I knew the police were involved, I knew it was very serious."

Hurring started work in Hong Kong, first as an English teacher and later as a scriptwriter.

Several times she thought of returning to NZ to clear her name, she said.

"I didn't think I had done anything wrong."

She made contact with Rotorua police in 2010 to find out what she should do.

At that stage she was pregnant and had planned to come back home, she said.

Her relationship with Gao, the father of her child, had become "very complicated".

The Crown evidence has finished.

This afternoon, the Crown and defence will present closing addresses.

Judge Phillip Cooper will sum up tomorrow and the jury will retire to reach a verdict.

- The Dominion Post

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