New Zealand 'runaway millionaire' pleads guilty

A New Zealand man who fled to China after a bank mistakenly deposited millions of dollars into his account pleaded guilty to theft on Tuesday.

Hui "Leo" Gao skipped the country with partner Kara Hurring when Westpac bank accidentally put NZ$10 million (US$7.7 million) into his account in April 2009 after he requested a NZ$100,000 overdraft.

Gao, dubbed the runaway millionaire, spent more than two years on the run before he was arrested by Interpol officers in September last year as he tried to enter Hong Kong from mainland China.

He pleaded guilty in Auckland District Court Tuesday to seven charges of theft relating to NZ$6.78 million in funds he transferred offshore from his New Zealand account after discovering the bank's mistake.

Gao, who had applied for the overdraft to help his struggling service station, was released on bail and will be sentenced on August 24.

Hurring, who returned to New Zealand voluntarily in February last year, was found guilty of stealing and money laundering at a separate trial last month and faces sentencing on the same date.

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