'I thought my parents gave me the money': Malaysia student on her $4.6m spree using Australia bank funds

A bank had mistakenly given 21-year-old Christine Lee A$4.6 million, most of which she spent on luxury goods on herself.
A bank had mistakenly given 21-year-old Christine Lee A$4.6 million, most of which she spent on luxury goods on herself. PHOTO: FACEBOOK

SYDNEY - The 21-year-old student who splurged A$4.6 million (S$4.59 million) given to her mistakenly by a bank in Australia now says she thought her wealthy parents had put the money in her account.

"My parents give me lots of money," says Christine Lee Jia Xin in an affidavit in response to a question on why she thought she had access to that much money, Sydney Morning Herald reported on Sunday (May 22).

Lee is alleged to have spent millions on branded handbags, jewellery, clothes as well as rent on a luxurious apartment over 11 months between 2014 and 2015 using an unlimited overdraft account accidentally given to her by Westpac bank. On one occasion she spent A$300,000 in a day.

 
 

The bank realised its error only when Lee transferred A$1.15 million to her PayPal account in 14 transactions in a single day on April 7 last year, the Herald reported.

"I bought clothes, shoes, lots of handbags ... They are in my unit at Rhodes," Lee said in her statement obtained by Fairfax Media, adding that she had only A$4,000 cash left, the Herald reported.

"My mother is coming over to visit me in June and will give the bank a cheque," she said. "I have [told my parents about it] and they are not very happy with me."

The third-year chemical engineering student was charged on May 5 with dishonestly obtaining financial advantage by deception, and knowingly dealing with the proceeds of crime. She was arrested at the Sydney airport trying to board a flight to Malaysia on an emergency passport a day earlier.

Westpac obtained court orders last year to seize all her assets, declare her bankrupt and take her passport, the Herald reported. The bank was able to get PayPal to return the A$1.15 million but the rest remains outstanding.

After Lee stopped showing up at court or answering calls, police issued a warrant for her arrest on March 6, 2016. 

Her boyfriend Vincent King posted bail of $1,000 to get her out of jail after her arrest on May 4. He claimed to be unaware of his girlfriend's windfall.

A magistrate has indicated that criminal charges may be difficult to prove, given that the bank provided her with the credit.