Kara's mother stunned by error

Last updated 07:03 16/05/2012

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A Blenheim mum was "stunned" when her daughter told her Westpac bank had mistakenly deposited a $10 million overdraft into her boyfriend's bank account, a court heard yesterday.

Kara Hurring, 33, appeared in the Rotorua District Court facing 25 charges of theft to the value of approximately $11,000, two charges of international money laundering to the value of about $235,000 and three charges of dishonestly using a document.

She denies the charges.

Hurring's mother, Suzanne Hurring, of Blenheim, told the court she was "stunned" when her daughter told her on the phone about the bank's mistake, TVNZ reported last night.

"I told her just go and see the bank about it tomorrow."

Witnesses gave evidence yesterday that Hurring and her partner Hui Gao left Rotorua within hours of the $10 million overdraft going into Gao's Westpac bank account on April 21, 2009.

The court was told they went first to Auckland, where Gao transferred $500,000 from his Westpac account to a personal ASB Bank account. He sent $450,000 offshore, leaving $50,000 in the personal account.

On April 29, Hurring dropped Gao at Auckland International Airport to fly to Hong Kong ahead of her, while she waited for an urgent passport for her and 6-year-old daughter Leena.

She then went to Hong Kong and spent 22 months on the run before being arrested when she returned to Auckland to apply for a passport for her baby son in February 2011.

 

Gao was yahooing....

Service station owner Leo Gao had asked Westpac bank for $100,000 overdraft but, on April 21, 2009, he and and partner Kara Mary-Jo Hurring found $10m had been loaded onto his business account overdraft.

Bianca Taute, a former flatmate of the couple, told Rotorua District Court yesterday that she saw ''lots of zeroes'' when she looked at the internet account.

''Gao was estatic, he jumping on the bed, yelling 'We're f...ing rich' and yahooing and woohooing,'' she said. ''Kara was looking serious.

''I remember the night clearly I've never been around anyone before who has $10m.''

Hurring, 33, has pleaded not guilty to 30 counts of theft, attempting to dishonestly use a bank card, and international money laundering, totalling $256,000.

Ms Taute said in her evidence: ''Leo asked me to look at the laptop screen.  I saw a whole heap of zeroes on his account.

''I said what's going on? How did it happen? I tried to tell them the bank would find out and get the money back.''

Gao kept refreshing the page, but the amount would not change.

The next evening, the couple celebrated with a big meal, and Gao drank from a bottle of Hennessy brandy, she said.

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Within hours they left Rotorua, leaving everything, including their pet kitten.

Ms Taute said she never saw them again except for text messages Hurring sent her, saying a friend would look after the cat.

The court was told they went first to Auckland, where Gao transferred $500,000 from his Westpac  account to a personal ASB Bank account. He sent $450,000  offshore, leaving $50,000 in the personal account.

On April 29, Hurring dropped Gao at Auckland International Airport to fly to Hong Kong ahead of her, while she waited for an urgent passport for her and 6-year-old daughter Leena.

She is alleged to have withdrawn up to $1500 in cash at a time from the ASB account, exceeding the daily limit every day.

She then flew via Hong Kong to the gambling resort of Macau, where she opened a $341,000 ''front money account'' at Wynn's International casino for gambling chips, accommodation and food.

Later she gave $2000 to younger sister Aroha to join her in Hong Kong, where they stayed in hotels and went shopping.

Aroha Hurring told the court she did not realise her sister was involved in the $10m error, until she saw it on the news in China.

''I freaked out,'' she told the court.

She asked Hurring about the money and was told there would be no problem. ''She told me the $10m had been put in Leo's account by mistake.''

The next day she rang her mother to book her a return ticket to New Zealand.

Gao is alleged to have transferred at a total of about $6.2m to  accounts in China through remittance companies before Westpac realised its mistake  and froze the transactions.

Westpac  recovered about $2.9m but $3.3m is still missing.

Hurring spent 22 months on the run before being arrested when she returned to Auckland to apply for a passport for her baby son in February 2011.

Gao was arrested in September 2011 when he attempted to cross the border from Hong Kong to Macau. He is currently on electronic bail living in Auckland awaiting trial.

Hurring's trial is scheduled for four days and continues today with evidence from the remaining 18 Crown witnesses.

 

What Has Happened To Hui Gao?

Arrested in September as he was crossing from China to Hong Kong and now faces charges of theft and money laundering.

Gao, also known as Leo,  is on electronically monitored bail at an Auckland address.

He is under 24-hour curfew, has been banned from the internet and has had to surrender his New Zealand passport.

He and Kara Hurring are not allowed to associate as part of their bail conditions.

He is accused of fleeing to China after $10 million was mistakenly deposited into his Westpac bank account in 2009.

A trial date for Gao has not yet been set.

 

- The Marlborough Express

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