Malaysia student Christine Lee spent up to $310,000 a day after given $4.6 million by Australia bank

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 - A student mistakenly given A$4.6 million (S$4.6 million) by a bank allegedly spent most of it on designer handbags, clothes, jewellery, mobile phones, a "selfie" camera and even a branded vacuum cleaner, The Sydney Morning Herald reported on Sunday (May 15).

Court documents obtained by the newspaper show a long list of transactions Christine Lee Jia Xin, 21, allegedly made after Westpac bank accidentally gave her an unlimited overdraft on her statement account in 2012.

The Malaysian chemical engineering student, who moved to Australia to study five years ago, spent as much as A$310,000 in a day at five Sydney designer boutiques, according to the documents.

The documents were filed as part of bankruptcy proceedings took out by Westpac against Lee last year. The bank outlined about 79 items and a further 50 store transactions they believed Lee made using the overdraft facility, Sydney Morning Herald said. Many more transactions have not been traced, it added.

The list included 52 items paid through Paypal, including a Sony "digital selfie" camera, two Casio cameras, a Dyson vacuum cleaner, Christian Louboutin boots, Chanel cashmere pillows, two smartphones, 13 Hermes scarves and dozens of handbags, including a Hermes Himalayan Crocodile Birkin that retails for about A$150,000.

 

Lee then allegedly transferred money to a Commonwealth Bank account and used it to go on 20 shopping sprees between January and April 2015, spending A$1.2 million.

The daily said Lee repeatedly attempted to dodge the bank, the police, and the courts and a A$3.5 million debt.

She was arrested at Sydney Airport on May 4 as she tried to board a flight to Malaysia on an emergency passport after a warrant was issued for her arrest.

She was charged with dishonestly obtaining financial advantage by deception, and knowingly dealing with the proceeds of crime.

Westpac bank had given Lee an unlimited overdraft on her account due to a processing error, it was previously reported.

While the overdraft - normally an unsecured loan up to an agreed limit - facility was given to Lee in 2012, she began to withdraw from the account only in 2014, media reports said.

By last year, she had taken A$4,653,333.02, the Sydney Morning Herald reported.

She reportedly hid A$1.3 million of the money by making regular transfers into private bank accounts, and spent the rest living it up.

Westpac realised their blunder on April 7, 2015 and immediately froze Lee's account and served her with court-issued notices to produce the goods, the Herald said.

Twenty-seven items totalling about A$1 million - including a Cartier bracelet, 16 Christian Dior handbags and four Hermes handbags - were surrendered by Lee in late April.

In May, the Supreme Court made orders allowing Westpac to seize any assets to repay the remaining A$3,486,612.07.

Lee was served a bankruptcy notice and a summons to appear in court in June 2015 by a debt collector at her rented luxury apartment.

She didn't show up at court and was declared an unregistered bankrupt in September.

By February, she had disappeared from her apartment. Police issued a warrant for her arrest in March.

Lee's boyfried Vincent King, who posted bail of A$1,000 after Lee's arrest, said he had "no idea" that she had come into "big money".

The couple declined to comment last week when the Herald visited Mr King's apartment, where Lee has been ordered to live while on bail.