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Thursday, May 5, 2016

Sydney student, a Malaysian, charged with fraud over mistaken millions in account

(Updated) A Sydney student who was allegedly given $4.6 million after a Westpac banking glitch appeared to be living the high life in a harbour-view apartment until her arrest this week.

Christine Jiaxin Lee, 21, was arrested while trying to board a flight to Malaysia on Wednesday night, four years after Westpac accidentally gave her an unlimited overdraft on her bank account.

Police allege she opened the account one month shy of her 18th birthday in 2012 but it wasn't until 2014 and 2015 that she took advantage of the unlimited overdraft by making numerous transactions totalling $4,653,333.02.

About $1 million has been recovered but the rest has disappeared. Her lawyer told Waverley Local Court on Thursday that she had spent it on handbags and luxury items.

Ms Lee's parents live in Malaysia and she is in her third year of a chemical engineering degree at the University of Sydney.

She listed her address in court documents as a sub-penthouse unit in Rhodes that boasts uninterrupted views across to Sydney Harbour.

Her boyfriend, Vincent King, posted an image in August from the balcony of the unit in Rider Boulevard, showing the view across the Parramatta River towards the city.

The unit was put up for lease in March with rent set at $780 a week. An advertisement called it one of Rhodes' "newest and most sought after properties" with 180-degree views of Sydney, two oversized bedrooms and brand new facilities.

Mr King gave a second address in court on Thursday, a waterfront unit in the Sienna By The Bay complex in Rhodes.

Ms Lee's Facebook page gives only a small hint of her life of luxury, with photos of her on a motorbike, with a puppy and wearing designer clothes.

She appeared in Waverley Local Court on Thursday with her hair in a messy bun, revealing a small rose tattoo behind her left ear.

Ms Lee was granted bail, with her boyfriend providing $1000 surety, the most the student couple could afford, lawyer Fiona McCarron said.

After issues with finding proof of Mr King's identity, Ms Lee was expected to be finally released on Friday afternoon.

Mr King appeared to have no idea about his girlfriend's alleged windfall, expressing shock at reporters who questioned him outside Waverley police station.

"That's big money," he said, when told of the alleged $4.6 million overdraft.

Magistrate Lisa Stapleton questioned the strength of the case on Thursday, suggesting that Ms Lee had not committed a crime because the credit was made available to her by the bank.

In that case, she would owe the money back to the bank but wouldn't be guilty of stealing or fraud, Ms Stapleton said.

"It isn't proceeds of crime. It's money we all dream of," she said.

Christine Lee's boyfriend Vincent King leaves Waverley Local Court on Friday.

Christine Lee's boyfriend Vincent King leaves Waverley Local Court on Friday. Photo: Daniel Munoz
Ms Lee, who is Malaysian, has been living in Australia for five years and recently applied for an emergency passport to leave the country.

Even though Sydney City Local Area Command's CBD fraud unit started their investigation in 2012, they issued a warrant for Ms Lee's arrest only on March 4 this year.

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