FOR A struggling petrol station owner with money woes it seemed like all his dreams had come true when £5million appeared in his bank account.
What originally had been a loan of £52,000 had a few zeros added to it by a dozy bank clerk, making Hui ‘Leo’ Gao yell “we’re f***ing’ rich” as he and his girlfriend set out to enjoy every minute of it.
Leo Gao suddenly found himself a very rich manCredit: Christine Cornege – ODT
Kara Hurring and Gao went on the run with the cashCredit: TRACEY ROBINSON/FAIRFAX NZ
Hurring took her daughter Leena along with themCredit: Times
Gao and Kara Hurring went on the run Bonnie and Clyde style, becoming folk heroes as they blew their cash on gambling and living the high life in five-star hotels.
Around £3.5million of the total cash was withdrawn or spent by the pair on their lavish spree.
The couple’s rollercoaster adventure began when Gao applied for an overdraft with Westpac bank to help his business in Rotorua, New Zealand.
A former flatmate of the couple recalled later she saw “lots of zeros” when she looked at Gao’s account online as it showed a $10 million (£5.2 million) overdraft.
He kept refreshing the page but it kept showing, prompting wild celebrations.
Bianca Taute said: “Gao was ecstatic, he jumped on the bed yelling ‘we’re f*****g rich’ and yahooing and woohooing.”
The following night the couple celebrated with a slap-up meal, which Gao washed down with a bottle of French brandy.
Within hours they were on the run with her daughter Leena, leaving everything behind – including their pet kitten.
The couple first went to Auckland where Gao transferred £260,000 out of his account and began attempting to hide the money.
In total, Gao used 23 bank accounts and 39 transfers to move the money overseas to prevent authorities from getting their hands on the cash.
In several installments, he transferred £3.5 million before the couple and their daughter fled to China.
Gao and Hurring first ended up at the gambling hub of Macau, where they opened accounts with local casinos and went on a gambling blow out.
She deposited £178,000 in a “players account” at the glitzy Wynn’s International Casino to be used for gambling, food and accommodation.
At one point, she lost $101,000 (£88k) in the casino as the couple burned their way through the cash.
A further £1.1million was transferred to the same Macau casino and this time the “player’s account” was in the name of Gao’s father, Alex Wang.
But by May the bank became aware of the error and alerted authorities who issued an Interpol alert for the missing couple.
‘RUN LEO RUN’
As the pair began to be covered in media, the public appeared to have warmed to the Robin Hood vibe of the story and they became minor celebrities.
Some supporters even set up a Facebook page called We Support Leo Gao and his 10 Million Dollars – Run Leo Run.
The hapless clerk was fired for their error but the damage had been done and the race was on to get the cash back.
The couple continued to live the high life with their unexpected wealth.
Hurring flew her sister Aroha to Hong Kong where they went on a shopping spree.
Aroha said she had no idea how her sister had come into such a huge amount of money until she saw a news report in China.
“I freaked out,” she said. “She told me the $10 million had been put in Leo’s account by mistake.”
By now the relationship had turned sour as police drained their offshore accounts and five-star hotels gave way to a hand-to-mouth existence on the run.
Finally in May 2010, Hurring contacted New Zealand police offering to return home.
HUNTED BY COPS
She could no longer rely on Gao for support and he had left her little money and after 20 months on the run was arrested by police when she landed at Auckland airport.
Gao was safe as he remained in mainland China, which has no extradition treaty with New Zealand.
But when he stepped across the border into Hong Kong – which does have a treaty – the Interpol notice was triggered and he was immediately arrested.
Gao then eventually agreed to return back to New Zealand to face the music.
He pleaded guilty to theft, admitting to the court he acted “like a dick”.
Gao was released from prison in 2013 after serving 16 months behind bars.
But Hurring maintained her innocence, insisting Gao explained his new found wealth by telling her she he had won the lottery.
But she was found guilty of 25 counts of theft and three counts of attempting to dishonestly use documents and two counts of money laundering.
She was sentenced to nine months home detention and made to pay back round £6000.
‘I WAS A DICK’
Gao was by all accounts an ambitious but unsuccessful businessman who had run his business into the ground with Kara helping out for free.
His lawyer Ron Mansfield said the temptation of such a large amount of money was of Biblical proportions.
“Your Honour, some say the greatest temptation was faced by Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden,” said Mansfield.
“But these are modern times for a man trying to keep the doors of his small business open, £5.13 million placed in his bank account was a very great temptation.”
The couple’s escapades were made into a 2019 film ‘Runaway Millionaires’ based Hurring’s account of what happened.
Gao and Hurring’s escapade was made into a filmCredit: Fearless Productions
Gao after being arrested in Hong KongCredit: Getty
His garage was struggling when suddenly became and accidental millionaireCredit: Getty
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