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Bank Error Gave M’sian Student RM13.8mil Overdraft, Court Told

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PETALING JAYA: Australian bank Westpac has revealed that an administrative error gave Malaysian student Christine Jia Xin Lee (pic) a A$4.6mil (RM13.8mil) overdraft, according to a statement tendered in a Sydney court.

The Sydney Morning Herald reported that Westpac said it all began when Lee’s near-empty account was frozen due to a fraudulent deposit complaint.

This prompted Westpac to put her account into “PCO Status” in 2013, which freezes transactions, and into “Manager 321 Status” which meant it would no longer be monitored by the Haymarket branch, where the account was opened.

However, after the investigation was concluded, the bank only removed the PCO Status, and not the Manager 321 Status, allowing her to make unlimited transactions.

The report said that at the time of her first overdraft on July 22, 2014, Lee had a bank balance of A$5.86 (RM17.30) and by the time the bank finally caught on, her balance was a debit of A$4,655,876.02.

The bank’s product risk unit was first alerted to the oversight when Lee made 14 transactions totalling A$1.15mil (RM3.38mil) to her PayPal account in April 2014.

Westpac argued that Lee had signed terms and conditions that included an agreement she wouldn’t overdraw the account and she would notify the bank of errors or unusual transactions.

The bank was able to retrieve the money transferred to PayPal on April 7, and seized hundreds of handbags and other designer items, but Lee was still about A$3.5mil (RM10.3mil) in debt.

According to an affidavit tendered in court previously, Lee said she was under the impression that the money had come from her “wealthy parents”.

Her excessive lifestyle came to an end when she was arrested two weeks ago while attempting to travel to Malaysia on an emergency-issued passport.

She said she believed her parents in Malaysia were banking money into her account.

“I bought clothes, shoes, lots of handbags … They are in my unit at Rhodes,” she was recorded as saying in a phone call with Westpac senior manager of group investigations Matt Tregoning.

In the details of the call, which were contained in the affidavit, Lee also admitted to only having A$4,000 (RM11,770) left, and that her parents were unhappy with her.

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