O-level cheating case: Authorities to apply for Interpol action against missing ex-principal

A file photo of Poh Yuan Nie from 2018. A warrant of arrest was issued for Poh on Nov 23, 2022, after she failed to turn up in court. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE – The authorities are looking to apply for an Interpol red notice against the missing former principal of an education centre.

Poh Yuan Nie, 56, was earlier sentenced to four years’ jail over 27 counts of cheating involving candidates in the 2016 O-level examinations.

A warrant of arrest was issued on Nov 23 after she failed to turn up in court to begin her jail term.

On Thursday, Deputy Public Prosecutor Louis Ngia applied to the court for the warrant to be executed outside Singapore’s jurisdiction.

When asked if there was any country the warrant was to be applied to, the prosecutor said “no”, and that the purpose of the application was to apply for the notice with Interpol.

According to Interpol’s website, a red notice requests law enforcement units worldwide to locate and provisionally arrest a person pending extradition, surrender, or other legal action.

In the past year, Interpol has issued red notices against a couple involved in a $32 million luxury goods scam in Singapore and a former Wirecard Asia director believed to be behind one of the largest cases of fraud and forgery in the finance sector.

Poh and her niece, former tutor Fiona Poh Min, 35, were each convicted in 2020 of 27 charges of engaging in a conspiracy to cheat. Fiona Poh was then sentenced to three years’ jail.

The pair then took the case to the Court of Appeal, but it was dismissed.

Poh Yuan Nie, also known as Pony, had been assisted by her then tutors, including her niece, to help students cheat in the exams. They committed the offences on multiple occasions in October 2016.

The prosecution had earlier stated that Poh Yuan Nie was paid $8,000 per student by Mr Dong Xin – a Chinese national – to provide tuition for the youngsters to help them pass the exams and enter local polytechnics.

A few hours before each exam, a group of people, including Fiona Poh and then tutor Tan Jia Yan, taped communication devices to the students.

Tan, then 34, was sentenced to three years’ jail in 2019 over her role in the ruse.

The students then sat the exams with the devices taped to their bodies, concealed by their clothes.

Tan also sat the exams as a private candidate and used the FaceTime application on her phone to present a live stream of the questions to the tuition centre.

Her accomplices then worked on the questions they received via the live stream before the students were called and had the answers read out to them.

Poh Yuan Nie oversaw the entire process, said the prosecution. Tan and Fiona Poh reversed their roles for one mathematics paper as Tan was better at the subject.

The prosecution had stated that this criminal set-up succeeded for three papers from Oct 19 to 21 in 2016. But it got exposed on Oct 24 that year when an alert invigilator heard unusual electronic transmissions and voices coming from one of the students.

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

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