A piece in yesterday’s Times:
A student who spent £2.7 million on designer shoes, handbags, clothes and jewellery after her bank mistakenly awarded her an unlimited overdraft has escaped prosecution.
Christine Jiaxin Lee was about to turn 18 when she opened a bank account in 2014 and discovered she could spend millions. Rather than call Westpac, Australia’s largest lender, to query the facility she went shopping.
She spent £11,000 at a Chanel store, £4,000 at Hermès and £1,000 at Christian Louboutin on her first spree. She went on to spend £165,000 on some days and splashed out £187,000 in three visits to Christian Dior in Sydney, and £30,700 at Chanel.
Prosecutors have dropped all charges against Ms Lee, 21, an undergraduate at the University of Sydney. She believed the cash had been transferred into the account by her wealthy parents in Malaysia. She said they regularly put money in accounts she had held. [J4MB emphasis. The journalist appears to believe Ms Lee’s ridiculous account of events. Doubtless £2.7 million was such a trivial sum, she wouldn’t expect her parents to have mentioned they’d given her an account with an unlimited overdraft, nor would she have troubled herself to tell them she’d spent £2.7 million.]
Ms Lee had been charged with fraud but Lisa Stapleton, a magistrate, had warned prosecutors that the student’s spending may not have been illegal.
Ms Lee’s lawyer said that her client would soon move back to Malaysia. Only 27 items, worth £562,000 — including a Cartier bracelet, 16 Christian Dior handbags and four Hermès handbags — have been recovered. “She is happy it is behind her,” the lawyer told the Daily Telegraph in Sydney. “There was no deception.” [J4MB emphasis]
The bank noticed the error in April 2015 and a senior manager phoned Ms Lee, demanding that she explain where the missing millions were. Ms Lee was arrested soon afterwards as she tried to board a flight to Malaysia.
A banking official described the bungle as a “big, fat banking error”. “The criminal charges against Lee were a matter for the director of public prosecutions and police, and we respect their decision,” a bank spokesman said.
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