O-level cheating trial: Private tutor says she threw away phone because of photos of illegal pangolin pet

Private tutor Fiona Poh Min faces 27 cheating charges and one of instigating a Chinese national student to leave Singapore to avoid being investigated by police.
Private tutor Fiona Poh Min faces 27 cheating charges and one of instigating a Chinese national student to leave Singapore to avoid being investigated by police.ST PHOTO: WONG KWAI CHOW

SINGAPORE - Before giving her statement to the police, private tutor Fiona Poh Min threw away her phone because it contained photos of her pangolin pet, which she knew was illegal.

The 31-year-old, who testified on Wednesday (Aug 15), is one of three people accused of helping six Chinese national students to cheat during their O-level exams in 2016.

She faces 27 cheating charges and one of instigating Chinese national student Chen Yi to leave Singapore to avoid being investigated by police.

Her two alleged accomplices are Zeus Education Centre principal Poh Yuan Nie, 52, who is also her aunt, and Chinese national Feng Riwen, 26. They each face 27 cheating charges.

Another tutor from the centre in Tampines, Singaporean Tan Jia Yan, 32, admitted in April that she took the exam in order to provide a live feed, using a camera phone stuck to her chest, to her alleged accomplices of the paper the other students were taking. Tan is currently out on bail of $20,000.

On Wednesday, Fiona Poh told the court that she had thrown away her phone before she went to the police on Oct 26, 2016, because "there were a lot of photos of my tuition centre pets" including a pangolin, a highly endangered wild animal that she picked up and took care of for a very long time.

Even if she deleted the photos, they would still be recoverable from the phone, said Fiona Poh. "So I threw it away," she added.


Chinese national Feng Riwen (left), 26, and Zeus Education Centre principal Poh Yuan Nie, 52. Each face 27 cheating charges. ST PHOTO: WONG KWAI CHOW 

 
 
 
 

The phone was subsequently found in a dustbin outside Bedok Police Division by investigation officers the next day, the court heard.

On Wednesday, Fiona Poh also told the court that she had never seen the Bluetooth and electronic devices that were seized as evidence during a police raid at Zeus Education Centre, where she was working.

She also claimed that before and on the day of the raid, she was threatened and physically intimidated by several police officers who had come into contact with her.

She said one officer told her that if she did not cooperate, the police would bring her step-grandmother in for questioning as well.

"I was hesitant because I didn't want them to bring my step-grandmother to the station," said a teary Fiona Poh in a shaky voice.

She added that she became "very scared so I just told (the police) what they wanted".

The trial continues on Thursday.