New Zealand 'accidental millionaire' jailed

Westpac Group headquarters, 16 Feb 2012
Image caption The bank had mistakenly deposited millions of dollars into Mr Gao's account

A New Zealand man who fled to China after millions of dollars were accidentally put in his bank account has been jailed for four years and seven months.

Hui "Leo" Gao left for China in 2009 after Westpac Bank mistakenly gave him a NZ$10m ($7.5m; £4.65m) overdraft.

His former girlfriend, Kara Hurring, received nine months' home detention.

The pair, dubbed the "accidental millionaires", were sentenced at a court in Rotorua.

The trial ended a saga that has grabbed international attention.

They were caught last year after being on the run for more than two years.

Gao, 31, pleaded guilty to seven charges of theft totalling NZ$6.7m in June. He was arrested and extradited from Hong Kong in December.

He said in court that he would not be able to pay back the money, New Zealand media reported.

Hurring, 33, was found guilty of money laundering, attempted fraud and theft in May.

She was arrested after returning to New Zealand in February 2011 and convicted in a Rotorua court after a four-day trial.

She pleaded not guilty, saying Gao had told her he won the lottery. She was also ordered to pay reparations of about NZ$11,800 to the bank.

Westpac did not comment on the sentencing. Reports said the bank has recovered NZ$2.9m but is still seeking NZ$3.79m.

On the run

In 2009, Gao had asked the bank for a NZ$100,000 overdraft to help support his struggling garage.

The bank found out about the error days after transferring the millions into Gao's business account.

But by then, police said, the couple had transferred more than half of the money into other accounts and then fled to Hong Kong.

They allegedly went on a gambling spree in Macau and southern China last year.

The couple are reported to have separated soon after they arrived in China. Hurring returned to New Zealand after having a baby.

They have been on bail at different addresses before the sentencing, reports said, and their young son is believed to be with family in China. Hurring has a daughter from another relationship.

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