May 5, 2016

Malaysian woman, arrested 'spent millions on handbags and luxury goods' after $4.6m was wrongly transferred into her bank account

A 21-year-old woman who was arrested at Sydney Airport trying to flee the country allegedly spent millions on handbags and luxury goods after $4.6 million was mistakenly transferred into her bank account four years ago.

Christine Jiaxin Lee, a Malaysian national, was mistakenly transferred the money into her Westpac bank account as an overdraft four years ago when she was just 17.

The chemical engineering student, who was attempting to flee to Malaysia when she was picked up by Australian Federal Police at Sydney Airport on Wednesday night, still allegedly owes $3.3 million to her bank.

She allegedly purchased 'luxury items' while taking advantage of the mistakenly extended overdraft.

Ms Lee appeared at Waverley Local Court on Thursday after being charged with dishonestly obtaining financial advantage by deception and knowingly dealing with the proceeds of crime.

Court documents revealed she is alleged to have committed the offences on multiple occasions between July 2014 and March 2015.  

It is alleged she failed to notify the bank that she was not entitled to the money. 

Police fraud experts launched their investigation in 2012, but a warrant for her arrest was only issued in March this year.

The court heard she knew police were attempting to make contact with her and she obtained an emergency Malaysian passport in order to leave the country. 

But Ms Lee's lawyer reportedly said that she had wanted to return home to visit her parents who were unaware of her arrest in Australia. 

She was granted bail for $1,000 and faces strict bail conditions, with Magistrate Lisa Stapleton agreeing with the prosecution that her attempts to flee Australia meant that she posed a flight risk.

Ms Stapleton appeared to suggest the student may not have broken the law and told the court: 'It's not proceeds of crime. It's money we all dream about.

'She didn't take it from (the bank). They gave it to her.'

The magistrate said that if this is what happened, the student would owe the money she had spent but would not have broken the law.

Ms Lee, who claimed to have obtained the emergency passport because she had lost her original one, will not be allowed to enter any international airport or port and has to report to police twice daily.

She is also not allowed to apply for another passport.

Ms Lee, who has lived in Australia for five years, lives with her boyfriend at Rhodes in Sydney's north-west. 

The court was told she had been in Australia for a year by the time the overdraft was wrongly put in place.

She is three years through a four-year chemical engineering degree but has deferred her final year.

The woman is due to appear at Downing Centre Local court on June 21.

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