NZ ‘runaway millionaire’ denies theft, money laundering charges


WELLINGTON — A New Zealand woman who allegedly fled the country with her partner after a bank mistakenly deposited millions of dollars into his account pleaded not guilty to money laundering and theft Tuesday. Prosecutors allege Kara Hurring left for China with partner Hui Gao when Westpac bank accidentally put NZ$10 million (US$8.4 million) into his account in April 2009 after he requested a NZ$100,000 overdraft. The error was discovered within days but by then some NZ$6.78 million had allegedly been transferred into other accounts and the pair, dubbed “the runaway millionaires,” had left the country. Hurring, who was arrested after returning to New Zealand in February last year, appeared in Rotorua District Court charged with stealing NZ$11,000 and two counts of laundering HK$1.5 million (US$193,000) in Macau. The 33-year-old denies knowing that funds she withdrew from Gao’s bank account did not actually belong to her partner. Prosecutor Fletcher Pilditch said there was little doubt she knew where the money came from, alleging Gao told her he was rich after discovering the bank’s mistake when checking his account online. Hurring’s trial is scheduled to last until Friday. Gao, who was arrested in Hong Kong last September and subsequently deported to New Zealand, will face a separate trial at a date yet to be set.