SA man likely murdered over 'bottomless' credit card that netted $6 million

Sam Hussey

If you think something's too good to be true, it probably is.

An Adelaide man gave new meaning to that adage when he came across a credit card that allowed $6 million in withdrawals from ATM’s across Australia.

Vietnamese-born Quyen Tu Au withdrew an estimated $396,000 from National Australia Bank machines before his luck came to a sudden end in 2000.

More than $4 million of the stolen money was found under the floorboards at a Kilburn home. Photo: SA Police
More than $4 million of the stolen money was found under the floorboards at a Kilburn home. Photo: SA Police

It wasn’t long before others realised that the 31-year-old was onto a good thing. His card quickly made its way to new owners and his body was no where to be found.

“We suspect that people may have seen him with the card and the cash and worked out what was going on," SA Police Detective Inspector Greg Hutchins said.

“It may be as simple as that. He was relieved of the card, perhaps after refusing to hand it over or co-operate with them.”

While the cash obviously didn't belong to Mr Au, neither did the card. He stole it from a Hong Kong exchange student in Brisbane in May 2000 and used it regularly until August.

Major Crime Investigation Branch detectives believe he was murdered for the Bank of East Asia debit card and over the next 65 days, an average of $91,235 was withdrawn in more than 55 transactions per day.

An Man Tran was arrested after $4 million was found under the floorboards of his Kilburn property.
An Man Tran was arrested after $4 million was found under the floorboards of his Kilburn property.

ATM security footage showed An Man Tran, a known associate of the missing Mr Au, using the card before passing it onto his brother An Thanh Tran.

By the time a NAB ATM finally discovered the computer glitch that allowed the transactions to go undetected, a staggering $6,325,320 had been withdrawn. Not bad for a piece of plastic that isn’t yours.

Amazingly, the card had been reported stolen by the exchange student’s father, however no action was taken.

"Mr Au was last seen operating an ATM card at the National Australia Bank ATM in Port Adelaide on 15 August 2000 at 12.21 p.m," SA Police stated.

"At about 12.54 p.m. the same date Mr Au contacted a friend using his mobile telephone. This is the last known contact that Mr Au had with any family or friends."

Once the dust had settled, investigators turned their attention to Mr Au and while they did locate his driver’s license and various personal documents, he was nowhere to be found.

The investigation led detectives to a Kilburn house, where they made several arrests and located $4.07 million in cash hidden under the floorboards of a bedroom.

Investigators found possessions belonging to Mr Au at the Kilburn property, but his body was no where to be found.
Investigators found possessions belonging to Mr Au at the Kilburn property, but his body was no where to be found.

“None of those who were subsequently charged over the fraud are co-operating with this investigation,” Detective Hutchins said.

“We have suspects and they are related to the continued use of the card after he was last seen using it."

In the end it was the ATM security footage, not elaborate shows of wealth that led to the arrests. The Tran brothers did not live the glamorous lives you would associate with a $6 million nest egg, instead hiding their loot underground.

While police did seize a further $250,000 in bank funds, further investigations at a Wingfield property did not recover the remaining $1.8 million haul.

The debit card came from the Bank of East Asia and a glitch in the system allowed the withdrawals to go unnoticed.
The debit card came from the Bank of East Asia and a glitch in the system allowed the withdrawals to go unnoticed.

“Other locations were searched using ground-penetrating radar to look for any signs of burial and cameras were used to look under floors but nothing was found," Detective Sergeant Shaun Osborn said

“They could have taken a suitcase load to Vietnam, we just don’t know."

A $200,000 reward is available for information on Quyen Tu Au’s remains.

Anyone with information is encouraged to call Crime Stoppers 1800 333 000 or use the Crime Stoppers online reporting page.