Woman's shock at $12mil bank balance

By James Perry, Leo Horgan

A Papatoetoe woman who found her ANZ account had been frozen was shocked to hear that $12mil had been mistakenly credited to her by the Inland Revenue Department (IRD).

While some might contemplate the life of luxury afforded by such a bank balance, Savana Taihia (Ngāpuhi, Waikato) says her reality is very different.

She was expecting a tax refund as well as her normal pay in her bank account.  Thinking the combined total read $12,000, she transferred a small amount of money to her parents.

Taihia only discovered there was a problem when she went into the bank to get an ATM card.

"They asked me questions, like 'are you expecting funds?' and I said 'yeah, my tax refund and work pay."

The bank then informed her that there was actually $12mil  in the account, the problems snowballed from there.

Taihia says the bank was suspicious of her having moved small amounts of money to her parent's accounts and to some of her own accounts, saying "why did you touch it? It wasn't yours." 

The account was frozen on Monday, May 6th.  Taihia hasn't had access to her funds since then and says it has been stressful and she has fallen behind in her rent and utility bills.

IRD media manager Rowan McArthur confirmed to Te Ao Māori News that the incident was a case of ‘human error’ and the funds were intended for a different account. 

The IRD has been engaged in a $1.6bil systems upgrade, replacing a 30-year-old mainframe with new software.  There is no confirmation that the $12mil error was related to the 'small wrinkles' the IRD says were expected during the upgrade.

Thankfully for Taihia and her whānau, enquiries by Te Māori News to the bank confirmed that she now has in-branch access to her accounts, with an expectation that access to her internet banking will be provided by Thursday.

She says she "cannot wait" and the first thing she will do is "pay my bills."

It isn't the first time a member of the public has received an unexpected windfall.

In 2009, Rotorua businessman Hui ‘Leo’ Gao made headlines after Westpac mistakenly added a $10mil overdraft to his account.

Realising the error, Gao transferred much of the funds into other accounts and fled the country for a gambling and spending spree in Macau and China.  He was eventually apprehended in Hong Kong and was extradited to New Zealand where he received a four-year sentence for the theft.

Meanwhile, the IRD has confirmed that the $12mil has now been paid into the correct account and they have "tightened controls to stop this from happening in the future."