NZ police seek China's help to return fugitive couple

WELLINGTON: New Zealand police said Monday they will ask China's government for help in returning a couple who fled to Hong Kong with millions of dollars mistakenly transferred to their bank account.

Police also confirmed the names of the couple as Leo Gao, 29, and Kara Hurring (also known by the surname Yang), 30, and appealed to the couple to return to New Zealand.

Police believe the couple, from the North Island tourist city of Rotorua, fled to Hong Kong three weeks ago after their bank mistakenly gave them a 10-million-dollar (six million US) overdraft, instead of an approved 100,000 dollar facility.

The New Zealand Herald reported Monday that, after the overdraft limit was approved, Gao attempted to transfer around 6.7 million dollars to other accounts, of which the bank managed to recover 2.8 million dollars.

Australian-owned Westpac Bank confirmed last week the customers had nevertheless been able to withdraw 3.8 million dollars.

Detective Senior Sergeant David Harvey of the Rotorua police said a family member who had been travelling with the couple had returned to New Zealand Monday and was talking to police.

Reports said Hurring's sister, Aroha Hurring, had returned to New Zealand on a flight from Hong Kong and was interviewed by police Monday afternoon.

The Herald also reported that Gao's mother, business partner Huan Di Zhang, and Kara Hurring's seven-year-old daughter, Leena, had disappeared with the couple.

Harvey said the pair had other family members living in New Zealand and would want to return to see them one day.

"I would suggest that they take the opportunity to return to this country to resolve this matter before the outstanding sum of up to 3.8 million dollars is spent," he said.

"I urge the pair to reflect on the consequences of what they are doing and make arrangements to come back to New Zealand."

Police were preparing a formal request "to the Chinese government" for assistance, he added.

Gao owned a petrol station in Rotorua, which has been put into receivership since the couple's disappearance.