Not guilty plea in $10m bank error trial

MIKE WATSON
Last updated 14:00 15/05/2012
Kara Hurring and lawyer
Tracey Robinson/ Fairfax NZ
Kara Hurring (L) and her Lawyer Simon Lance entering Rotorua court.

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A Rotorua woman used her partner's ATM card to buy goods and withdraw cash knowing $10 million had been deposited into his Westpac overdraft account by a bank mistake, a Rotorua jury heard today.

Kara Hurring, the ex partner of Leo Gao, left Rotorua for Auckland soon after the couple allegedly discovered the banking error in Gao's account in late April 2009.

About $6 million was transferred to accounts in China, Westpac Bank recovered $2.9 million, and $3.3million is still outstanding, the court heard.

Hurring was living with Gao in their Rotorua townhouse when Gao shouted one night "I'm f**king rich", Crown prosecutor Fletcher Pilditch said in his opening address today.

Earlier he had arranged a $10,000 bank overdraft for his ailing service station business but through a clerical error was given $10 million.

Within three days the couple left Rotorua "never to return".

Gao was dropped off at Auckland International Airport by Hurring to fly to Hong Kong while Hurring stayed in Auckland using Gao's bank card to make withdrawals.

She regularly exceeded the daily limit until she also left for Hong Kong on May 3, the Crown alleges.

Gao transferred $500,000 from his Westpac business account to his personal ASB account, later sending $450,000 offshore to Wynn's Casino in Macau.

He left $50,000 in the personal account which Hurring had access to, the Crown said.

Hurring has pleaded not guilty to 30 counts of theft, dishonestly using a bank card and money laundering.

When Hurring arrived in Hong Kong with her daughter, she took a ferry to Macau and opened a "front money account" at the casino for HK$1.5 million (NZ$341,000) in gambling chips, accommodation and food with the money Gao had transferred.

Only HK$100,000 was used to gamble with, the Crown allege.

The remaining money - HK$1.4 million (NZ$318,000) - was not cashed in for chips.

The Crown allege Hurring knew the money was stolen from Westpac Bank.

Hurring told police when she was arrested in February 2011 that she did not know of the bank error, or where the money had come from.

The jury trial at Rotorua District Court is scheduled for four days. The Crown will call 18 witnesses for evidence.

 Gao was arrested in September and has been on electronic bail living at an Auckland address. A trial date for him has not yet been set.

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