Student pleads not guilty over $4.9m bank transfer

Aussie prosecutors say she took advantage of unlimited overdraft granted to her by mistake

Christine Lee Jiaxin received an unlimited overdraft by Australian bank Westpac following a processing error. Her purchases allegedly included designer bags, clothes, shoes and jewellery.
Christine Lee Jiaxin received an unlimited overdraft by Australian bank Westpac following a processing error. Her purchases allegedly included designer bags, clothes, shoes and jewellery.PHOTO: FACEBOOK/CHRISTINE JIAXIN LEE

SYDNEY • A Malaysian student in Australia has pleaded not guilty for allegedly spending A$4.6 million (S$4.9 million) mistakenly given to her by a bank.

Christine Lee Jiaxin, 21, made the plea on Tuesday at the Downing Centre Court in Sydney.

Her lawyer Hugo Aston told the Daily Mail Australia that her legal team would be "vigorously defending the charges" of dishonestly obtaining financial advantage by deception and knowingly dealing with the proceeds of crime.

"We feel confident our client will be acquitted," said Mr Aston, adding that Lee's family travelled from Malaysia to support her through the matter. "Her family is fully supportive of her. We are very much a united team," he said.

Lee's family members, however, were not present in court.

Lee was charged in May this year following her arrest at Sydney Airport while trying to board a flight back to Malaysia.

The chemical engineering student was given an unlimited overdraft by her bank Westpac following a processing error in 2012, the Daily Mail Australia reported. She has been living in Australia for the past five years.

It is alleged that she realised she had an unlimited overdraft in July 2014 and then went on a multimillion-dollar spending spree for 11 months, even though Westpac and the police made numerous attempts to contact her.

Her purchases allegedly included designer handbags, clothes, shoes and jewellery from Chanel, Christian Dior and Cartier. She allegedly spent more than A$220,000 at a Christian Dior shop in Sydney in one day.

She also reportedly bought mobile phones and a vacuum cleaner.

The Daily Telegraph Australia cited the police as saying that Lee allegedly hid A$1.3 million of the money by making regular transfers into private bank accounts.

She was also renting a A$3,120-a-month apartment with a view of the Sydney Harbour, the Sydney Morning Herald said.

Westpac representative Matt Tregoning told the Daily Mail Australia that he hoped to see justice done.

As of May, Westpac has recovered only A$1 million, media reports said.

Lee had previously claimed she believed the money had been transferred by her parents.

She was released on A$1,000 bail in May after being charged with fraud. Her boyfriend Vincent King, also a student from Malaysia, paid the bail.

He claimed he had "no idea" about his girlfriend's windfall and that he had never seen her make any extravagant purchases.

Mr Aston said on Tuesday that Lee plans to return to Malaysia once the case is concluded.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 15, 2016, with the headline 'Student pleads not guilty over $4.9m bank transfer'. Print Edition | Subscribe