Student Who Was Mistakenly Given $3.4 Million by Bank May be in the Clear

Life tip: if you wake up to find out that your bank has mysteriously given you unlimited cash funds – don’t go on an insane shopping spree just now.

Three years ago, Christine Jiaxin Lee woke up to find the ultimate pay day in her bank account when she was granted an unlimited overdraft on her savings account, due to one serious doozie of a computer glitch. The Australian chemical engineering student then did what a lot of people would do and went wild on the ultimate shopping spree, renting a penthouse and spending over $1 million on handbags.

“That’s a lot of handbags,” said magistrate Lisa Stapleton who presided over Lee’s court hearing.

Two years later, the Westpac Bank finally noticed the glitch, and Lee was arrested while attempting to board a flight to her home country of Malaysia. Police charged her with dishonestly obtaining financial advantage by deception, and accessing more than AU$4.6 million (US$3.4 million) between July 2014 and April 2015. The prosecution alleged that she opened the account right before her 18th birthday in 2012, and was soon after mistakenly given the unlimited overdraft rights from the bank. Around AU$3.3 million remains outstanding.

While such charges would certainly be unsettling for anyone to hear – though probably weren’t particularly surprising – Lee learned some rather interesting news from the judge the morning after her arrest: she may not have broken the law by spending the cash.


In an interesting twist, magistrate Lisa Stapleton granted Ms. Lee bail, citing Westpac Bank more at fault for inadvertently giving her the money. The magistrate agreed with Lee’s solicitor Fiona McCarron who claimed the police would have difficulty proving the illegality of the student’s spending. “It’s not a proceed of crime, it’s money we all dream about,” said Stapelton before granting Lee Bail under a set of strict guidelines. “She didn’t take it from them. They gave it to her.”

Sydney City Local Area Command’s CBD fraud unit had begun their investigation in 2012, but only issued the warrant for Lee’s arrest on March 4, 2016, after she applied for an emergency Malaysian passport. The police sergeant said both the police department and the bank had made attempts to contact Lee in the past, but their calls were not returned.

Under the conditions of her bail granted by magistrate Lisa Stapleton, Lee must report to Ryde police twice daily. Oh, and the big kicker that will most certainly provide Ms. Lee years of anxiety – she’ll likely have to repay the money back to the bank. The magistrate noted that just because the funds were not the “proceeds of crime” and may have been spent legally, it doesn’t mean they’re a free bag of cash with no strings attached. Lee still has to pony up for the overdraft cash spent. Ouch.

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