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Current as of 04/09/15 01:39PM NZST

'Accidental millionaire' appears in court

By Portia Mao

Leo Gao Hui is taken from Eastern Magistrates Court after being arrested by members of Interpol. Photo / Supplied
Leo Gao Hui is taken from Eastern Magistrates Court after being arrested by members of Interpol. Photo / Supplied

The so-called "accidental millionaire" appeared before Rotorua District Court this morning on 27 theft and money laundering charges.

Leo Gao faces 17 charges of theft relating to almost $6.8 million. One is a joint charge with partner Kara Hurring. The remaining charges relate to money laundering, eight of them joint charges with Hurring.

The pair are alleged to have fled New Zealand after Westpac mistakenly gave Gao a $10m overdraft instead of the $100,000 he asked for.

Gao's lawyer Ron Mansfield planned to apply for bail this morning but his client was remanded in custody over Christmas because there was no judge sitting.

Police are expected to oppose his bail application at his next hearing on January 5.

The 30-year-old was arrested in Hong Kong in September but returned to New Zealand with police on Wednesday and appeared before Manukau District Court later that day.

Outside court on Wednesday Detective Sergeant Mark Loper said police did not know what Gao had been doing since he left New Zealand. Mr Loper said Gao had been co-operative on the flight back to New Zealand.

Gao and Hurring are accused of transferring almost $6.8m of Westpac's money into several accounts before fleeing the country. Almost $3.9m remains unrecovered.

The couple's disappearance sparked an international manhunt involving Interpol and other overseas agencies.

Hurring, 32, was arrested when she re-entered New Zealand earlier this year and is due to stand trial in February.

New Zealand police received notification in the first week of December that extradition approval had been granted for Gao by Hong Kong authorities.

New Zealand police understand that Gao did not contest the extradition.

Two detectives travelled to Hong Kong last weekend to complete the process and accompany the man back to New Zealand in police custody.

- APNZ

- Herald on Sunday

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