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 on Friday (Dec 1).
Ms Christine Jiaxin Lee, a 21-year-old Malaysian resident who is studying at Sydney University, was alleged to have splurged the money on designer handbags, clothes, jewellery, mobile phones and a vacuum cleaner over 11 months.
However, prosecutors dropped charges against the chemical engineering student after a similar case involving a man charged with fraud for withdrawing A$2.1 million from ATMs was thrown out of court, news portal news.com.au said.
Responding to The Straits Times’ query, the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions confirmed on Friday that the charges were withdrawn on Nov 27, but declined to comment further.
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, and to move on with her life,” he told the newspaper.
“There was no deception.
“It’s a very interesting case, and an interesting outcome.
“It is obviously clear the bank should adopt better policies.”
It is unclear whether the seized items will be returned to the student, said news.com.au.
The error was picked up by the Westpac bank in April 2015 and a senior manager phoned Ms Lee, demanding she explain where the missing millions were.
The student claimed she believed the money had been transferred into her account by her parents. When she found out police were trying to contact her about the money, she was understood to have arranged for herself to be granted an emergency Malaysian passport.
However 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”.
They admitted they were forced to track down more than $1.3 million Lee allegedly hid in multiple private accounts.
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 (DPP) and police, and we respect their decision.”