Remember the Malaysian student who spent A$4.6 million (RM13.8 million) that was mistakenly deposited into her bank account?
In the latest twist to the story, Christine Lee Jia Xin has revealed that she “thought (her) parents gave (her) the money”. Lee’s version of the story was revealed in an affidavit obtained by Fairfax Media, reported the Sydney Morning Herald.
The affidavit contained a call on 8th April 2015 between Lee and Westpac’s senior manager of group investigations Matt Tregoning. The call documented the crucial point regarding the accidental overdraft.
By the time the bank called, Lee only had A$4,000 (RM12,000) cash left with her.
My mother is coming over to visit me in June and will give the bank a cheque. I have (told my parents about it) and they are not very happy with me.
More than a year later after the call, the chemical engineering student was arrested by the Australian Federal Police at Sydney Airport when she tried to board a flight back to Malaysia on an emergency-issue passport. On 5th May, the student, who has been residing in Australia for the past 5 years, was charged with “dishonestly obtaining financial advantage by deception, and knowingly dealing with the proceeds of crime”.
Court documents obtained by Fairfax Media have shed some light on the course of events.
In 2012, Lee opened an account with Westpac bank and received regular deposits from her parents. Her first overdraft was on 22nd July 2014, when a monthly rent payment of A$3454 (RM10,000) put her account into debit.
She did top it up, but stopped putting the account back into credit after 2 more rent payments went through. Lee then started transferring different sums of money to a Paypal account after realising that she had an unlimited overdraft. The regular deposits from her parents also stopped.
In a span of 7 months, A$4.6 million (RM13.8 million) was transferred to her Paypal account, about half which was forwarded to 2 Commonwealth Bank accounts. The money was then used to shop at Sydney boutiques. At one particular instance, Lee even spent up to A$300,000 (RM900,000) in 1 day.
On 7th April 2015, the student transferred A$1.15 million (RM3.4 million) to her Paypal account in 14 transactions over 1 day. The abnormal spending pattern alerted Westpac’s Product Risk unit, which froze the account and contacted Lee.
When questioned on why she thought she had access to that much money, Lee simply answered:
My parents give me lots of money.
Westpac contacted Paypal, who returned the unspent A$1.15 million (RM3.4 million), but the rest of the money remains outstanding.
Over 1 year, Lee splurged RM13.8 million on handbags, designer goods, jewelries, clothes, and rent of a luxurious apartment. The branded items were found in her apartment unit in Rhodes.
Amongst the items that Lee bought were:
3 solicitors visited Lee’s apartment on 20th May 2015 and found shopping bags, shoes boxes, designer handbags, scarves, shoes, and jewelries scattered all over the floor and furniture. 2 subsequent search conducted in April and May forced Lee to hand over more than 100 handbags and mounds of clothes, sunglasses, shoes, key chains, scarves, a vacuum cleaner, cushions, and jewelries. By February 2016, Lee had fled the apartment.
The 21-year-old student cooperated with authorities at the beginning, but stopped responding to calls and showing up at court eventually. This caused police to issue a warrant for her arrest on 6th March 2016.
The case has been in court since April 2015, when Westpac went to the Supreme Court and Federal Circuit Court to declare Lee bankrupt, seize all her assets, and take her passport. However, a magistrate explained that it might be difficult to charge Lee with criminal charges, as the bank provided her with the credit.
In response, Westpac argued that Lee had signed terms and conditions stating that she wouldn’t overdraw her account. Additionally, Lee’s continued attempt to avoid the bank, police, and the courts might cause some to interject that it was a sign of guilt.
The saga is still ongoing, and it remains to be seen if Lee will be punished for spending money that is not hers.