Ex-principal and tutors found guilty of helping students cheat during O-level exams

(From left) Principal of the now-defunct Zeus Education Centre Poh Yuan Nie and two tutors - Fiona Poh Min and Feng Riwen - were each found guilty of 27 counts of cheating. ST PHOTOS: WONG KWAI CHOW

SINGAPORE - The principal of an education centre and three of her tutors schemed to help six students cheat during the 2016 O-level examinations.

The students, who are Chinese nationals and were aged between 17 and 20 at the time, smuggled mobile phones and Bluetooth devices into exam halls in Singapore.

Answers were then whispered to them through their skin-coloured earphones. The ruse involved exam papers for subjects, including English and mathematics.

On Tuesday (July 7), District Judge Chay Yuen Fatt convicted three of the offenders after a trial.

Principal of the now-defunct Zeus Education Centre Poh Yuan Nie, 54, and two tutors - her niece Fiona Poh Min, 33, and Feng Riwen, 28 - were each found guilty of 27 counts of cheating.

They committed the offences on multiple occasions in October 2016.

A fourth offender, former tutor Tan Jia Yan, then 33, was sentenced to three years' jail in April last year over her role in the ruse.

Tan, who used to work at the education centre in Tampines Street 34, had pleaded guilty in April 2018 to 27 cheating charges. The three women are Singaporeans while Feng is a Chinese national.

The prosecutors stated in their submissions that Poh Yuan Nie, also known as Pony, was paid $8,000 per student by another Chinese national, Mr Dong Xin, to provide tuition for the youngsters to help them pass the examinations and enter local polytechnics.

Deputy Public Prosecutors Vadivalagan Shanmuga and Cheng Yuxi had earlier told the court that she masterminded the scheme while her accomplices would "not do anything without going through her".

A few hours before each examination, Fiona Poh, Tan and Feng helped attach communication devices on the students, the court heard.

The court heard that the students then attended the examinations with these devices taped to their bodies and carefully concealed by their clothes.

The DPPs added: "During the examinations, Jia Yan's role was mainly to sit the examinations as a private candidate and use the FaceTime application on her phone to present a livestream of the question papers to the co-accused stationed at the tuition centre.

"The others worked on the questions streamed to them. Riwen (and others) then called the students to read the answers to them. Pony oversaw the entire process."

The court heard that Tan and Fiona Poh reversed their roles for mathematics paper 2, as Tan was better at the subject.

The DPPs stated that this criminal set-up succeeded for three papers, from Oct 19 to 21, 2016.

But it fell apart on Oct 24 that year when an alert invigilator heard "unusual electronic transmissions and voices" coming from one of the students.

After the examination, the student was taken to an office where he handed over devices, including Bluetooth receivers and an earpiece. He also came clean about how the ruse was carried out.

The DPPs said Poh Yuan Nie later found out about what had happened and "in a panic" suggested that the student return to China.

Tan used her credit card to buy a plane ticket for him and he flew off that very evening.

Poh Yuan Nie is represented by lawyer Peter Fernando. He had argued during the trial that there was no evidence that his client and the three others had a "legal obligation" to inform the Singapore Examinations and Assessment Board that the students would be receiving help from others while they were taking their papers.

The DPPs said that this argument is "misconceived", adding: "The students were clearly governed by the rules of the GCE O-level examinations - including a rule that provided that the students were not to bring into the examination venue any unauthorised materials or electronic devices.

"The students were under an obligation to observe and adhere to all the examination rules."

It was not mentioned in court on Tuesday where the students are now.

The trio are expected to be sentenced on Aug 21. For each count of cheating, an offender can be jailed for up to three years and fined.

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