Australian woman spends millions on unlimited overdraft

An Australian woman ran up a huge overdraft after realizing the bank had given her an unlimited credit line on the current account she opened when she was 17, news reports said Thursday.

The woman, now 21, was arrested at Sydney airport on Wednesday night as she tried to fly to Malaysia after allegedly removing 4.6 million Australian dollars (3.4 million US dollars) from her bank account four years ago.

Facing court on Thursday, police charged the chemical engineering student with dishonestly obtaining financial advantage by deception and knowingly dealing with the proceeds of crime.

It was alleged she opened an account with Westpac Bank in Sydney just before her 18th birthday in 2012, but the bank accidentally gave her an unlimited overdraft, The Sydney Morning Herald reported.

She allegedly withdrew millions of dollars over the next 10 months without the bank blocking it.

Her lawyer told the court she spent 1 million dollars on luxury goods such as handbags, but around 3.3 million remained unaccounted for. The woman is disputing the charges.

Magistrate Lisa Stapleton said that was a lot of handbags, but granted bail.

"It isn't proceeds of crime. It's money we all dream of," Stapleton told the court.

“She didn’t take it from them – they gave it to her,” The Herald quoted her as saying. The suspect would owe the bank the money she took, but would not necessarily have broken the law, she said.

Defence lawyer Fiona McCarron agreed, saying police would have difficulties proving the spending was illegal.

The young woman has Malaysian parents and had been living in Sydney for the past five years and is in the third year of a four-year degree. She obtained a Malaysian passport just weeks after police issued a warrant for her arrest.

The court heard police began their investigation in 2012 but only issued an arrest warrant in March. The woman is due to reappear in court on June 21.

Last update: Thu, 05/05/2016 - 12:10
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