Runaway millionaires sentenced

MIKE WATSON
Last updated 12:12 24/08/2012
Kara Hurring, Leo Gao
SNPA

RUNAWAY MILLIONAIRES: Kara Hurring and Leo Gao during sentencing at the High Court at Rotorua.

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One of the country's most notorious bank thieves, Hui 'Leo' Gao, has been handed a jail term of four years and seven months at sentencing in Rotorua District Court this morning.

His partner, Kara Hurring, received nine months' home detention and was ordered to pay reparation of $11,800 to Westpac bank.

The couple - dubbed the runaway millionaires - were arrested last year after evading authorities for nearly two and half years while on the run in China.

The pair had fled Rotorua in April 2009 after Westpac Bank mistakenly deposited $10 million instead of $100,000 into Gao's Rotorua service station overdraft account.

Hurring, 33, was arrested in February 2011 when she returned to NZ to renew her daughter's passport.

She was found guilty in May this year by a Rotorua jury on 30 charges of theft, dishonestly using a bankcard and money laundering, totalling $256,000.

Gao, 31, described as the "puppet master" was extradited in December 2011 after trying to cross the border into Hong Kong.

He pleaded guilty in June to seven charges of theft totalling $6.7 million. The charges all carried a maximum seven year jail term.

Westpac recovered $2.9 million of the stolen money soon after Gao and Hurring fled in 2009 and are seeking reparation of $3.79 million still outstanding.

A bank spokesman would not comment yesterday on what progress had been made to recover the outstanding money.

Gao indicated in court today that he could not pay the money back.

Hurring and Gao have spent the previous months remanded on bail living at separate Auckland addresses.

Hurring is understood to be seeking custody of her nine-year-old daughter, Leena. The girl, from a previous relationship, has been living with Hurring's mother, Sue, in Blenheim since Hurring returned to New Zealand in 2011.

Hurring and Gao's young son, Bei Bei, is understood to be living with extended family in China.

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- The Dominion Post

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