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'Accidential millionaire' relieved despite guilty verdicts

Published: 8:39AM Friday May 18, 2012 Source: ONE News

The mother at the centre of the "accidental millionaire" case says she is relieved despite being convicted on 30 charges.
Three years after she fled to China, Kara Hurring has been found guilty of theft, dishonesty and money laundering.

The charges stemmed from a $10 million Westpac bank error in April 2009.

Hurring denied she knew where the $10 million accidentally transferred into her then partner Leo Gao's bank account had come from before the pair flew out of New Zealand to China.

However, a jury in Rotorua District Court took less than an hour to find the mother of two guilty of all charges this morning.

The bank's error was discovered on May 5 and approximately half the money was retrieved from New Zealand accounts, leaving $3,872,000 unrecovered.

Hurring spent two years on the run and was arrested when she returned to New Zealand in February last year after she gave birth.

She denied 25 counts of theft to the value of $11,000, two counts of international money laundering to the value of around $235,000 and three counts of dishonestly using a document.

The theft charges related to purchases and withdrawals made using Gao's eftpos card for four days in Auckland before she left for China. The jury also found Hurring had been dishonest in the way she used the eftpos card, repeatedly taking it to its daily limit.

But it was the final two charges that carried the most weight - laundering money for Gao through a casino in Macau.

Hurring claimed she did not know where the money had come from until she saw an item on the news in China. She told the court Gao claimed he had won Lotto.

The prosecution claimed she had told her mother about the bank's mistake and went on a four day shopping spree around Auckland before leaving the country.

Outside court, Hurring said: "Its a relief. I can't wait to see my kids."

But there was no admission and defence lawyer Simon Lance said she she wasn't the runaway millionaire.

"Not one cent of Westpac money went into her bank account," said Lance. "She'll be sentenced on a lesser basis than Mr Gao because the amounts of money that she's said to be involved in are obviously significantly less."

Hurring remains on bail and will be back in court on August 24.

Gao was arrested by Interpol in September last year as he was crossing into Hong Kong. He returned to the country in December and went straight to prison.

In February, the Chinese-New Zealander was granted bail at the High Court in Auckland. He faces 17 charges of theft and 10 of money laundering.

He is on electronic bail in Auckland, awaiting trial, and is not allowed to associate with Hurring.

Crown prosecutor Fletcher Pilditch said the banking error which sparked an international manhunt was "pretty unique to say the least".