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Teuila Fuatai

Teuila Fuatai is a reporter for the NZ Herald

'Runaway millionaire' to be released

Leo Gao. Photo/ Stephen Parker
Leo Gao. Photo/ Stephen Parker

So-called runaway millionaire Leo Gao will have Christmas outside prison this year.

Gao, 33, stole $6.7 million after discovering $10 million in his bank account due to a major bank error.

Instead of returning the money, Gao took off on an overseas spending spree, splashing out at glitzy hotels and casinos.

Gao's then-partner, Kara Hurring, also joined him in Macau.

Eventually, the pair were caught out, and Gao - who had spent two and a half years on the run - was sentenced to four years and seven months in jail in August last year.

A decision from the Parole Board, released yesterday, found the former petrol station owner was ready for parole and would be out of prison on December 23.

His parole eligibility date is December 19.

The board, which is charged with assessing Gao's risk of offending, said that despite the sizeable nature of his fraud, they were satisfied his risk of offending could be managed by imposing strict parole conditions.

While in prison, Gao was considered a low risk offender, the decision said.

Gao had also admitted his actions had caused great shame, had broken the law and contradicted with his family's values.

When considering Gao's case, the Parole Board found he did not pose an undue risk to the community, and therefore refusing him parole once his eligibility date was reached would be wrong.

They placed strict conditions on his release, including restrictions on interactions with Ms Hurring and access to bank accounts.

Ms Hurring, who has a son with Gao, was sentenced to nine months' home detention over her role in the theft.

Almost $3.8 million is still missing from the $10 million transferred into Gao's bank account in April 2009.

Conditions on Leo Gao's release:

* Can contact Kara Hurring only with the prior approval of his probation officer

* Banned from engaging in any business, employment work or voluntary work unless approved by his probation officer

* Only able to operate a bank account approved by his probation officer

* Prohibited from any gambling premises

* Undertake counselling for gambling

* Live at an address approved by his probation officer

- source: Parole Board

- APNZ

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