World

Charges dropped against student who spent millions after bank error

SYDNEY A student who was alleged to have spent A$4.6 million (S$4.7 million) on designer goods with an unlimited overdraft account her bank accidentally gave her has had all her charges dropped, Australian media reported yesterday.

Malaysia-born Christine Jiaxin Lee, a 21-year-old chemical engineering student at Sydney University, was alleged to have splurged the money on designer handbags, jewellery, mobile phones and a vacuum cleaner over 11 months.

Prosecutors dropped charges against her after a similar case involving a man charged with fraud for withdrawing A$2.1 million from automated teller machines was thrown out of court, news portal news.com.au said.

Ms Lee's lawyer, Mr Hugo Aston, told the Daily Telegraph his client would be moving back to Malaysia following the outcome of the case.

"She is happy it is behind her..." he told the newspaper.

"There was no deception. It is a very interesting case and an interesting outcome. It is obviously clear the bank should adopt better policies."

The error was picked up by Westpac bank in April 2015.

Ms Lee said she believed the money had been transferred into her account by her parents. When she found out police were trying to contact her about it, she was understood to have arranged for herself to be granted an emergency Malaysian passport.

She was arrested in May 2015 at Sydney's Kingsford Smith Airport when she tried to board a flight to Malaysia.

Senior banking officials told the Daily Telegraph the bungle was a "big fat banking error".

A Westpac spokesman said: "Westpac has taken all possible steps to recover its funds, including taking civil action against Ms Lee.

"The criminal charges against Lee were a matter for the Director of Public Prosecutions and police, and we respect their decision."

WORLD