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Sir Tokyo Sexwale

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There used to be a British bank that liked to say "yes" – but a bank in New Zealand has gone a step further in responding to a couple's plea for an overdraft.


It mistakenly deposited NZ$10m (£3.85m) – 1,000 times the requested amount – into their account.


And the temptation seems to have been too much. After withdrawing some of the money the couple disappeared from a service station they ran in Rotorua, about 150 miles south of Auckland.


Media in the country suggested they may have fled to Korea or China, and police have asked Interpol for help.


The bank, Westpac, which has reportedly recovered NZ$4m, said it was "pursuing vigorous criminal and civil action to recover the sum of money stolen". It refused to confirm the exact amount involved.


The New Zealand Herald reported a bank spokesman as saying human error was responsible for the mistake and that the bank was reviewing its procedures. The paper named the couple as Leo Gao and his girlfriend Cara Young.


A neighbour said the service station was open on 7 May, but the next day it was closed and a notice said it was in receivership.


New Zealand's banking ombudsman told the Daily Post in Rotorua that it was a criminal offence to spend money mistakenly put into bank accounts if the holders knew it was not their own.


Claire Matthews, a lecturer in banking at Massey University, told Newstalk ZB in Auckland: "They've taken funds they're not entitled to, that are not theirs. They've effectively, I guess, become thieves."



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