SINGAPORE: A principal and two teachers at a private tuition centre concocted a scheme to help six foreign students cheat in the 2016 GCE O-Level examinations, using Bluetooth devices and mobile phones strapped to the students' bodies.
After a long-running trial, then-principal Pony Poh Yuan Nie, 54, was sentenced on Wednesday (Sep 16) to four years' jail.
Co-accused Fiona Poh Min, 33, was given three years' jail while China national Feng Riwen, 28, was given two years and four months' jail.
The trio - who worked at the now-defunct Zeus Education Centre - were convicted of 27 counts of cheating in July, after a 20-day trial over one-and-a-half years.
Prosecutors said the offences had distorted the state of play in the O-Level examinations, "an important national examination in our local education system", posing "a serious affront to the principles underlying" the system.
Pony had hatched the conspiracy in what the prosecution called an "audacious, multi-faceted and time-sensitive operation", with the students having devices strapped to their bodies and carefully concealed under layers of clothes.
The "clandestine operation" was carried out for three examination papers. It was uncovered only when an invigilator heard unusual electronic transmission sounds and voices coming from one of the students.
The October 2016 papers taken by the six students, aged 17 to 20, were for subjects including English, Mathematics and Science.
A few hours before each examination, Fiona and Feng would tape the devices on the students and test them to make sure they worked.
During the examinations, co-accused Tan Jia Yan, also a teacher, sat in as a private candidate and used FaceTime on her phone to livestream the question papers back to the tuition centre.
Fiona and Feng worked on the questions and called the students to read the answers to them.
Pony was labelled by the prosecution as the mastermind of the entire scheme. As principal, she decided how the operation would be carried out and approved her co-accused's actions, overseeing the entire process on the day of examinations.
While the students were in the exam halls, they wore skin-coloured "in-ear" earphones which fed them answers to the tests.
Of the four, Tan was the only one who pleaded guilty and was sentenced to three years' jail in April last year.
The prosecutors had asked for 52 months' jail for Pony, the longest jail term as she was the director of operations with higher culpability. They called for three years' jail for Fiona and 28 months for Feng.
A SOPHISTICATED OPERATION
The case involved a "sophisticated operation involving at least four persons working in concert", said the prosecutors.
They also employed Bluetooth and FaceTime technology, and their actions "seriously undermined the integrity of the Singapore Examinations and Assessment Board", said the prosecution.
"The offences have inevitably caused a loss of public trust and confidence in its administration of an important national examination," said Deputy Public Prosecutors Vadivalagan Shanmuga and Cheng Yuxi.
They cited the judgment in Tan's case, where the judge said that the case strikes "at the heart of the values of meritocracy which are sacrosanct to our educational system".
"The sentence must be calibrated not just to punish the wrongdoer appropriately. It must rectify the wrong caused to the system, and present a sufficiently stark warning to deter those who would seek to profit by way of such audacious deception," said the judge in Tan's case.
For each count of cheating, the accused could have been jailed for up to five years, fined, or both.