Back in 2009, I blogged about a Mr. Leo Gao, a Chinese national who ran a local BP service station in Rotora, New Zealand and his girlfriend Ms. Kara Young Hurring fleeing to China with some NZ$6.8 million after their local Westpac bank gave them a business overdraft of $NZ10,000,000 instead of the $NZ10,000 they had applied for (some news reports now claim they asked for $NZ100,000). The case made them international heroes to some folks.
In February, Ms. Hurring voluntarily returned to New Zealand to face charges for theft and money laundering. She is scheduled to stand trial in February 2012, where her lawyer says she will fight the charges.
Now comes word that Mr. Gao will likely be extradited to New Zealand to face charges as well. In September, Mr. Gao was arrested as he entered Hong Kong from mainland China based on an Interpol warrant accusing him of theft and money laundering.
Westpac has never disclosed how the overdraft error was made (it fired the bank teller who supposedly made the error), why it took so long to discover the mistake, why it was originally reported as a $NZ10,000 overdraft instead of the now alleged $NZ100,000, nor how the bank "recovered" more than $NZ4 million of the money. Hopefully, the trial in February will shed more light on the subject.
Update: 01 December 2011
The original post had Australian dollars instead of the correct New Zealand dollars, and Rotorua is now spelled correctly.
Robert N. Charette is a Contributing Editor to IEEE Spectrum and an acknowledged international authority on information technology and systems risk management. A self-described “risk ecologist,” he is interested in the intersections of business, political, technological, and societal risks. Charette is an award-winning author of multiple books and numerous articles on the subjects of risk management, project and program management, innovation, and entrepreneurship. A Life Senior Member of the IEEE, Charette was a recipient of the IEEE Computer Society’s Golden Core Award in 2008.