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Duo flee after banks' £4million mistake

Published 22/05/2009

An international search was underway today for a New Zealand couple who fled with a fortune after a bank accidentally put £3.86 million in their account.



The couple, who have not been named, ran a petrol station in the Northern Island tourist resort of Rotorua.

They had applied to Westpac Bank for a NZ 10,000 (£3,800) overdraft, but 1,000 times that amount was paid into their account. The two then withdrew some of the money and disappeared, Detective Senior Sgt. David Harvey said.

Westpac said it considered the money to be stolen, but conceded it was human error at the bank that made the couple accidental millionaires.

Sgt. Harvey said Interpol has been contacted for help, suggesting authorities believe they may have fled abroad with the cash.

"We are currently conducting an investigation into the individuals that may have been involved in the withdrawal of that money," he said.

A Westpac spokesman said the huge deposit appeared to be the result of human error. He said the bank had recovered some of the money but declined to give details about the case.

The bank said it was "pursuing vigorous criminal and civil action to recover the sum of money stolen," but declined further comment.

Banking Ombudsman Liz Brown said it is generally considered a criminal offence for people to spend money accidentally deposited into a bank account if they are aware that the cash is not theirs.

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