O-level cheating trial: Student knew about cheating plan only on morning of exam

The centre's principal Poh Yuan Nie (centre) and tutors Fiona Poh Min (left) and Feng Riwen allegedly helped six Chinese students cheat during the O-level exam in 2016.
The centre's principal Poh Yuan Nie (centre) and tutors Fiona Poh Min (left) and Feng Riwen allegedly helped six Chinese students cheat during the O-level exam in 2016.ST PHOTOS: WONG KWAI CHOW

SINGAPORE - For months, Chinese national Chen Xiang attended English and Mathematics classes at a tuition centre almost daily to prepare for the GCE O-level examination, which he had flown to Singapore to take.

But a day before his combined science practical paper on Oct 19, 2016, the centre's Singaporean principal Poh Yuan Nie, 52, told him she had "something to help" him in his exam and instructed him to arrive at the centre earlier the next morning, Chen Xiang told a court on Tuesday (April 17).

He found out the following day that this "help" entailed cheating - by attaching communication devices to his body to allow his tutors to feed him answers during the exam.

The 19-year-old agreed to the plot as his family had spent a lot of money to send him to Singapore, and he was assured that he would not be discovered.

This was what Chen Xiang testified in court during the first day of trial for Poh Yuan Nie, also known as Pony Poh, and two tutors from Zeus Education Centre. They allegedly helped Chen Xiang and five other Chinese students cheat during the O-level exam in 2016.

The two tutors are Poh's niece, Singaporean Fiona Poh Min, 30, and Chinese national Feng Riwen, 25.

Their alleged accomplice Tan Jia Yan, 32, who was also employed by the centre in Tampines, pleaded guilty to 27 cheating charges on Monday.

 
 

The Singaporean admitted to helping to attach Bluetooth devices and mobile phones to the students' bodies before their exams, with the other alleged accomplices. The students were also given skin-coloured "in-ear" earphones.

Tan sat for the exam as a private candidate and had a mobile phone attached to her chest and concealed under clothing. She used communication application FaceTime to beam images to her three alleged accomplices, who were stationed at the tuition centre.

Fiona Poh and Feng allegedly worked out the answers and, together with the principal, read out the answers to the students.

The operation went on undetected for five days from Oct 19 until one of the students, Chen Yi, was caught by an invigilator on Oct 24 at Tampines Secondary School.

Chen Xiang said he tried calling Chen Yi that day after the English Paper 2 exam but could not reach him. Tan later informed him that Chen Yi had been caught and told him to return to the tuition centre, he added.

At the centre, the principal and the three tutors discussed sending Chen Yi back to China that night.  Like Chen Xiang, Chen Yi had travelled to Singapore for the O-level exam.

Poh Yuan Nie changed S$1,000 into Chinese yuan, while Tan booked him on a flight back to China, said Chen Xiang.

He added that Fiona Poh also remotely cleared data from Chen Yi's phone, which had been confiscated by his examiners.

Poh Yuan Nie's lawyer, Mr Peter Fernando, said his client "denies entirely" her alleged participation in the plot. He also accused Chen Xiang of being a "blatant liar".

Chen Xiang had earlier testified that the principal had come up with the plan to cheat. He said she handed him the Bluetooth devices on Oct 19, taught him how to use them and, along with the three tutors, assisted him to attach the devices to his body.

But during cross-examination, he said it was the tutors, not Poh Yuan Nie, who had instructed him to carry out the plan, or help to attach the devices to his body. He also said she did not read him any answers during the exams.

The trial resumes on Wednesday.


Correction note: An earlier version of this report said that Chen Yi was caught at Loyang Secondary School, when in fact he was caught at Tampines Secondary School. We are sorry for the error.