O-level cheating case: Warrant of arrest issued against ex-principal who did not turn up in court

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SINGAPORE - A warrant of arrest has been issued against the former principal of the now-defunct Zeus Education Centre, who was earlier sentenced to four years’ jail over multiple counts of cheating involving six candidates in the 2016 O-level examinations.

Lawyer Peter Fernando, who had earlier represented Poh Yuan Nie, 56, told The Straits Times on Thursday that the warrant of arrest was issued after she failed to turn up in court to begin her jail sentence, adding: “I don’t know where she is now.”

He had discharged himself from representing her following a pre-trial conference on Wednesday.

Poh Yuan Nie 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 in a procedure known as a criminal reference, seeking to have the apex court determine a question of law of public interest.

The issue posed to the court turned on the meaning of the word “dishonest” in the phrase “dishonest concealment of facts”.

The pair’s lawyers argued that the meaning of “dishonest” has to be determined with reference to the definition of “dishonestly” under Section 24 of the Penal Code.

The provision states that a person is said to do an act dishonestly if he or she does it with the intention of causing wrongful gain or wrongful loss to another person.

The prosecution argued that a plain or ordinary meaning of “dishonest” should be adopted instead.

In a written judgment on Monday, the apex court agreed with the prosecution that the word “dishonest” must be interpreted as being used in the ordinary sense of the word rather than in the special sense given to it by Section 24 of the Penal Code.

The court also concluded that the word “dishonest” describes the mental state of the accused when committing a cheating offence.

Poh Yuan Nie, also known as Pony, had been assisted by her then-tutors, including her niece, to help six students cheat in their papers during the 2016 O-level examinations.

They committed the offences on multiple occasions in October 2016.

The prosecution had earlier stated in their submissions that Poh Yuan Ni...

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