| 26.05,09. 10:29 AM |
NZ mum Kara Yang wrongly given $10m by Westpac
May 26, 2009 08:20am
THIS is the first photo of the New Zealand woman, who has vanished with her partner and seven-year-old daughter, after the Westpac Bank accidently put $10million in their bank account.
Thirty-year-old Kara Yang, her partner Leo Gao, 29, and daughter Leena (also pictured here) are believed living the high-life in Asia after their extraordinary windfall.
Brief communications with friends and relatives on Facebook have revealed that Kara has boasted of drinking Chinese beer and enjoying the heat of Asia away from the New Zealand winter as authorities try to track them down.
The couple's unusual luck - or the bank's terrible mistake whichever way you view it - came soon after Leo Gao suffered a business failure with an unsuccessful service station operation in Rotorua, on New Zealand's north island.
Ironically, friends of Gao, a Korean national, have told the London Times that he dreamed of being a successful businessman - although his past form suggested otherwise - and his main aim in life was to get rich.
That aim happened a lot quicker than expected when the couple applied to Westpac for a $100,000 loan, only to be given 100 times the amount they wanted when the decimal point was put in the wrong place.
With the money in the bank, the couple told friends and Leena's school they were going on holiday but instead withdrew at least $3.8 million and left New Zealand.
Their car was found abandoned at Auckland airport and the police believe they have fled to China. Interpol and NZ police are focussing their search on Beijing and on Hong Kong.
Kara's daughter and Gao's mother and siblings who lived with him in a house near the service station, BP Barnetts, have also disappeared according to the couple's friends.
Chevi Lambert, owner of the neighbouring business Andy's Cellar told The Times that Gao "dreamt of getting rich".
"He talked to me about his dreams and ventures," Ms Lambert said. "His one big dream was to make money. He bought a fish and chip shop next door to the garage and wanted to make it into a Chinese fish and chip shop. But he didn't do anything about it.
"It just sat there empty and after about six months he sold it for less than he bought it for.
"That was around the time when BP started going downhill. He lost motivation; the pressure of working those those long hours left him really stressed," she said.
"At the same time he and Kara were having a lot of problems," she added. "They split up about a month ago but they were trying to work things out."
The first lead authorities had of the couple's whereabouts came from information leaked about how a friend Aroha Hurring, 22, had charted Kara's and the fugitives' progress from New Zealand to Hong Kong, Macau and into mainland China on her Facebook page.
On China, she says: "It's crazy. The only thing I hate is that they look at me funny."
But in a major development yesterday, a relative who was travelling with cashed-up Kiwi fugitives returned to New Zealand and into the hands of questioning police.
New Zealand police have confirmed an unnamed relative who was with the pair in Hong Kong arrived at Auckland Airport.
Detective Senior Sergeant David Harvey said police now believed the couple first fled to Hong Kong with the money and he urged them to return home.
"This pair still have families in New Zealand and at some stage they may want to return to see them," Detective Harvey said.
He said police would make a formal request to the Chinese government for help to find the pair.
"The fact that we are taking this step shows how seriously we are taking this investigation," Detective Harvey said.
The identity of the returned relative has not been revealed but NZ sources say it could be Kara's younger sister, Aroha.
Legal experts say that if caught, the fugitives could face charges of obtaining by deception and money laundering.
The Daily Telegraph