O-level cheating case: Ex-tutor instigated candidate to leave Singapore to avoid police investigation

Shaffiq Alkhatib
The Straits Times
February 22, 2023

A former tutor linked to a cheating case involving six candidates who sat the 2016 O-level examinations has been given a stern warning for obstructing the course of justice.

After receiving the warning, Fiona Poh Min was granted a discharge amounting to an acquittal on this charge during a pre-trial conference last Friday.

This means the 35-year-old, who used to work at the now-defunct Zeus Education Centre in Tampines, cannot be charged again with the same offence.

Fiona Poh had been accused of working with others, including her aunt Poh Yuan Nie, in instigating one of the candidates in October 2016 to leave Singapore, in a bid to avoid being investigated by the police.

In a statement to The Straits Times on Tuesday, the Attorney-General’s Chambers said: “After careful consideration of the facts and circumstances of the matter, the prosecution directed that a stern warning be administered to (Fiona Poh) for the... charge and thereafter applied for a discharge amounting to an acquittal. This was granted by the court.”

Fiona Poh and her 57-year-old aunt, who is the former principal of Zeus Education Centre, were each convicted in 2020 of 27 charges of engaging in a conspiracy to cheat.

Fiona Poh was given three years’ jail, and is serving her sentence.

Poh Yuan Nie, who is also known as Pony Poh, was ordered to spend four years behind bars.

But she failed to turn up in court to begin her jail term, and a warrant of arrest was issued against her in November 2022.

An Interpol red notice has since been put out for the missing former principal.

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

The case centred on an arrangement Poh Yuan Nie had with the tutors she hired, including her niece. Students were taught how to cheat in their papers during the O-level exams.

They did this on multiple occasions in October 2016.

Poh Yuan Nie was paid $8,000 per student by Chinese national Dong Xin 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, helped to tape communication devices on the students.

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

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

Her accomplices then worked on the questions they received via the live stream before calling the students and reading out the answers to them.

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

Tan and Fiona Poh reversed their roles for Mathematics Paper 2 as Tan was better at the subject.

But the prosecution said Poh Yuan Nie oversaw the entire process, and added that the criminal set-up succeeded for three papers from Oct 19 to 21, 2016.

They were finally 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.

The Straits Times

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