$10 Million Bank Error In New Zealand Leads To International Manhunt

Leo Gao, the co-owner of a BP station in Rotorua, New Zealand, applied for a $10,000 NZD ($6,142 USD) overdraft line from Westpac bank. An error by a bank staff member somehow put $10,000,000 NZD ($6,139,614 USD) in his account. He and his business partner haven’t been heard from since.

The money was in the account on or about May 5. The following day, the BP station closed its doors. But it was only on Thursday this week that police said they were investigating.


Police would not say yesterday when Westpac alerted them to the missing money.

Inquiry head Detective Senior Sergeant David Harvey of Rotorua CIB said police had called on Interpol to help find “individuals associated with the account” who were believed to have fled the country with a large sum of money “mistakenly advanced” by Westpac.

It is understood as much as $6 million is missing. The bank has recovered $4 million.

The station owners were in a bad financial position, and apparently saw the mistaken deposit as a windfall. They did exactly what one should not do in this situation—they allegedly wired the money out of the country and fled. Where to? Their native China? Nobody knows.

$6m runaways have head start [New Zealand Herald] (Thanks, Morticia!)

(Photo: srqpix)


Edit Your Comment

  1. gStein_*|bringing starpipe back|* says:

    the bank obviously needs a bailout.

    • gStein_*|bringing starpipe back|* says:

      @gStein: actually, i wish to replace my original statement with “this is what they get for hiring former Verizon associates”

    • JadoJodo says:

      @gStein: This comment = Win.

    • lordargent says:

      $10,000 NZD ($6,142 USD
      $10,000,000 NZD ($6,139,614 USD)

      Um, I am no math whiz, but if $10,000 NZD is $6,142 USD

      Then shouldn’t $10,000,000 NZD be roughly $6,142,000 USD

      Did you take the extra $2,386 for yourself?

  2. flamincheney says:

    Run for the hills… Run for your life…

    I know what they did was stealing, but at the same time I kind of want to give them a high five.

  3. redkamel says:

    thats awesome.

  4. Trai_Dep says:

    That’s what you get using Hobbits for bank tellers.
    Everyone knows, use the Dwarfs. Use the Dwarfs!

  5. Trai_Dep says:

    “They did exactly what one should not do in this situation-they allegedly wired the money out of the country and fled.”
    Well, technically, fleeing the country while forgetting to wire the money out would be the worst thing to do.

    • Michael Belisle says:

      @Trai_Dep: I’m not sure that’d be the worst thing. I’d feel like an idiot, but I wouldn’t have to tell anyone when I came back. I’d just say I went on vacation.

      The worst thing might be be buying lots of stuff, and then asking the bank why you have extra money.

    • RStui says:

      @Trai_Dep: I think leaving the country and attempting to wire the money to your then-current location would be the worst thing.

    • m4ximusprim3 says:

      @Trai_Dep: Also, I think this is EXACTLY what people should do in this situation. It makes for an amusing story on what is otherwise a mounumentally slow news day.

  6. Michael Belisle says:

    Even the Community Chest cards have been supersized in these recessionary times? I wish I’d land on that space more often. It was so hard to get excited about a measly $200.

  7. Ronin-Democrat says:

    please find their email address for me so I can clue them in on an opportunity my Nigerian cousin has because of his job in the treasury.

  8. kunai says:

    The last time I got a bank error in my favor it was only for $10. And even that was Monopoly money…

  9. Shoelace says:

    I can’t believe these idiots didn’t notice there was a problem when the money was being wired out.

    • parkavery says:

      @Shoelace: Seriously. If you walk into the bank and ask to wire $10mil, doesn’t the teller at least look up from their crossword to question it? I needed management approval to wire 0.1% of that.

      • Notsewfast says:

        Agreed, there should be some oversight. But I deal with lots of high net-worth investors and wires get rubber stamped all the time with little more than a glance. If it was a corporate account, 10 million could look legitimate.

        The person in trouble will be the one who stamped a huge wire without looking at the paperwork…

    • EinhornIsAMan! says:

      @Shoelace: I think you’re the idiot. They obviously did notice, that’s probably why they wired the money out of the country and fled. Personally, I think it’s awesome.

      Technically it’s stealing, but I love the legal gray area since they didn’t “take” the money it was “given.”

      • Megalomania says:

        @TheDayIsMine: Well, the “giving” part is a bit dubious – since they had applied for an overdraft line, it depends on whether the line was for 10,000 and 10,000,000 was deposited or if the line was for the whole 10 mil.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Now if only you could treat the extra money as a gift. You know, if you actually receive goods that have been mailed to you that your didn’t order which was unsolicited are at times considered gifts. It should be handled the same way. ^_^ Oh how we could all dream.

  11. Wombatish says:

    Ugh.. I want to hate them for the costs they would pass on to me (if I lived in New Zealand) and for breaking the law (in a big way) but if it were me, I can’t say I wouldn’t be tempted.

  12. Skaperen says:

    They might have looked a bit more innocent if they had an accomplice in Nigeria, and stayed in New Zealand and demanded to know what happened to the 10,000 NZD, looked even more surprised when the bank tells them about the error, and then turn the tables and blame the bank for “making their account look too attractive” :-)

  13. Meathamper says:

    Well, wouldn’t you?

  14. Skankingmike says:

    John Dillinger’s of the 21’st century?

  15. David in Brasil says:

    so *that’s* why cousin Wei-ping showed up at my door with all that money for me to hold for him…

  16. Hirayuki says:

    This is the kind of NZ story my desperately chauvinistic Kiwi mother-in-law won’t be sending us. In fact, it may be the only NZ story she won’t be sending us.

    My father-in-law lives in Rotorua. It’s not that big a town; the station owners were smart to hightail it out of there.

  17. HelloSailor_GitEmSteveDave says:

    Branch Manager:
    How do you explain this?

    David Hasselhoff(not THAT one, he just happens to have the same name as that no-talent assclown became famous and started winning singing in Germany, and he’s not going to change it b/c it’s the other David that sucks.):
    Ok! Ok! I must have, I must have put a decimal point in the wrong place or something. Shit. I always do that. I always mess up some mundane detail.

  18. bishophicks says:

    Their business was about to go under, so if they didn’t take the money, they were screwed financially. If they do take the money, either they get caught or they don’t. They’re set either way.

    It reminds me of a quote from Raising Arizon. John Goodman reveals his plan to commit a spree of bank robberies across the Southwest:

    “And we keep going until we have enough money to retire. Or until we get caught. Either way, we’re set for life.”

    • Radi0logy says:

      @bishophicks: That is a great movie. Need to go back and watch it again, it has been too long

    • godlyfrog says:

      @bishophicks: I suspect they had planned to skip the country regardless. For them to have done it so quickly means they probably planned to take the $10k and skip out, so when they got $10mil, they didn’t have to think hard about transferring it.

  19. I Love New Jersey says:

    I take it life is not like Monopoly.

  20. AlteredBeast (blaming the OP one article at a time.) says:

    If it was wired, can’t they trace it? If I were in that position, I would maybe mail the money in a box to some hotel out of the country, and be there to pick it up.

    • mavrick67 says:


      Once a wire is gone, it’s gone. Especially international

      • AlteredBeast (blaming the OP one article at a time.) says:

        @mavrick67: I never wired money out of the country, but based on movies and such that I’ve seen, that makes sense.

        But isn’t there a bank account, and name, on the other end of that wire? And isn’t that where Interpol comes into play?

        • enm4r says:

          @AlteredBeast: There is definitely a receiving bank and account on the other end. International law regulates the rest. While it’s true the money is gone, depending on the country you may not be able to legally obtain much more information regarding who owns the account or when they withdrew the funds.

          • freelunch says:

            That is why a swiss bank account is your best bet… Swiss privacy laws prevent the banks for providing any details regarding account holders.

  21. mac-phisto says:

    i’d like to think i’d do the right thing, but for $7 million? screw it. i’d find me a country without an extradition treaty & spend the rest of my life sipping mai-tais on the beach.

    • varro says:

      @mac-phisto: Better yet, “find” the $7 million of travelers checks and burn the place down before sipping margaritas and complaining…

  22. Anonymous says:

    How exactly is this illegal if they were granted an overdraft line and then used it. Would this now mean that it is a civil matter, although I know that I am not familiar with NZ laws. If someone were to have an overdraft line in the US and took all the money and did not pay it back, I don’t know what criminal charges could be pressed since it is a line of credit and they used it, it’s not like they went into the bank and stole it.

    • mac-phisto says:

      @PedroTyphon: they were granted a line for $10k & used $10M. yes, it was a bank error, but that doesn’t make it ok. it’s theft. simple as that. this is most definitely a criminal matter – grand theft in the united states, as well as wire fraud & a few other charges. typically, if the bank can recover its money right away, it will drop any criminal charges. if the money is not recoverable, they will pursue charges.

      here’s a similar case in australia: [www.telegraph.co.uk]

      note the quote at the end – “In the eyes of the law it was the conduct of a thief.”

    • AlteredBeast (blaming the OP one article at a time.) says:

      @PedroTyphon: Best comparison I can think of is like this:

      You say to a friend, “I left a DVD player for you in my trunk, you can have it.”

      Then the friend goes into your trunk, and sees there are 5 DVD players in there. They take all 5.

      While the bank account is in the account holder’s name, it’s still the bank’s “trunk” that the account holder took the money out of.

  23. starrion says:


    Six million will buy a lot of fizzy drinks in fruit.

    I’m suprised nobody noticed the sonic booms as these people left the country.

    Yes, they have to become more familiar with extradition law, but it’s hard to say “well I wouldn’t do that.”

  24. Blueskylaw says:

    Now that bank is going to raise my rates and reduce my credit line all thanks to
    Leo Gao, errr, I meant the economy.

  25. JGKojak says:

    Run run run!

    If you were a foreign national and could go back home to China or India, say, you’d absolutely do it- no way they get caught in China.

  26. cozymoses says:

    RUUUUN!!!!! You are my anti-heroes of the day.

    Face it– they couldn’t have picked a better time to rip off a bank!

  27. FLConsumer says:

    I’ve been working on too many fraud cases. I saw the $6m USD and thought to myself “why bother with such a small amount?” then realised I’ve been working on major fraud cases for too long and just how much you can do with $6m.

  28. Alexander says:

    I just had to do this:

    From Wikipedia:

    The United States maintains diplomatic relations, but does not have extradition treaties with the following countries: Afghanistan, Algeria, Andorra, Angola, Armenia, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brunei, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cambodia, Cameroon, Cape Verde, the Central African Republic, Chad, China (People’s Republic of China), the Union of the Comoros, Congo, Democratic Republic of the, Cote d’ Ivoire, Djibouti, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Gabon, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Indonesia, Jordan, Kosovo, Kuwait, Laos, Lebanon, Libya, Madagascar, the Maldives, Mali, the Marshall Islands, Mauritania, the Federated States of Micronesia, Moldova, Mongolia, Montenegro, Mozambique, Myanmar, Namibia, Nepal, Niger, Oman, Qatar, the Russian Federation, Rwanda, Samoa, São Tomé & Príncipe, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Serbia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Taiwan, Togo, Tunisia, Uganda, Vanuatu, Vietnam, Yemen, and Zimbabwe. *

    Countries without treaties or diplomatic relations

    The countries which have neither diplomatic relations nor extradition treaties with the U.S. are: Bhutan, Cuba, Iran, and Korea (North).

    • mac-phisto says:

      @Alexander: i hear the marshall islands are beautiful this – scratch that – EVERY time of year. =)

    • morlo says:

      @Alexander: Interesting to see that the blood we shed for Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait didn’t even result in extradition treaties. Granted these countries would demand that their nationals be extradited so that they could be stoned to death because they held hands with a non-relative, but if we can’t agree on basic legal matters we have no business be concerned about their governments.

    • cordeliapotter says:

      @Alexander: Huh, I thought the Marshall Islands was a US territory, turns out we just rent land there.

  29. Czum says:

    Dear Mr. Sir:

    I am Mr. Samuel David and am Director of Inheritances at the National Bank. I need to wire $10000000 (ten millions) New Zealand dollars to your country before it is lost to the government. If you agree to receive these money, you may keep $2000000 (two millions) for yourself in exchange for this service, then you wire the rest to me with Western Union. Please send my your address, phone number and bank account number at earliest.

    With happiest pleasure,
    Samuel David
    Director of Inheritances
    National Bank


  30. econobiker says:

    Anyone remember Benjamin Lovell’s silliness with a bank account error???

    Man could get 25 years after bank error

    February 21, 2008

    A New York man accused of stealing $2.1 million says the incident was the result of a bank’s mistake that he had previously tried to correct.

    Benjamin Lovell said he spoke to the manager and other officials at Commerce Bank after he was informed that he had an account worth $5.8 million, and all of the bank employees informed him that no mistake had been made and the money was his to do with as he pleased, the New York Post reported Thursday.