Star witness in sex-for-grades trial: I was coerced into making parts of my statement

Rahimah Rashith
Rahimah Rashith
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Star witness in sex-for-grades trial: I was coerced into making parts of my statement

Darinne Ko arrives at the Subordinate Courts on Tuesday, 15 January 2013. (Yahoo! photo)

[UPDATE: on 14 Jan, 118PM, adding Darinne's latest testimony]

The main witness in the sex-for-grades trial involving an NUS law professor says she was coerced into making parts of her statements to the Corrupt Practices Investigation Buerau (CPIB).

In the third day of the trial, former NUS student, 23-year-old Darinne Ko said she "felt pressured to give my statement in the way I did because I was told that my evidence was not sufficiently cooperative to make out the elements of the charge against the Professor".

Her former professor, Tey Tsun Hang, is facing six charges of corruptly obtaining gifts and sex from Ko in exchange for better grades. These allegedly took place between May and July 2010.

Ko said she was questioned for 2.5 hours in a "coercive and oppressive environment".

"When I told them (CPIB officers) I had given the items to Tey because I liked him and we were in love, they refused to believe me," she said. "I only bought the gifts because I liked him and we were in a relationship. He (CPIB officer) didn't believe me and said it was not plausible for a girl to buy a guy a gift."

"He initially wanted me to write that all these happened because I wanted 'favours' from Professor Tey and I told him that I refused to write it as I did not require any favours from him. He then suggested 'undue prejudice'. I was slightly more comfortable with that although it's still not an accurate depiction of my statement," she added.

Last Friday, prosecution lawyers applied to impeach Ko, citing several discrepancies between her testimony in court and her statements made to investigating officers in April last year.

Ko's testimony was said to have deviated from her statements to the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB) last April on three areas -- on her level of interaction with Tey, the purpose of her buying a Mont Blanc pen for him and details about photos taken after the two had sex.

On Thursday, Ko said her interaction with Tey in school was "as per any other student", but this, said the prosecution, conflicted with what she said to the CPIB recording officers, which was that she was one of the students Tey liked to call upon to answer questions.

"The answer you gave to CPIB suggests that you were being singled out for attention by the accused," said Deputy Public Prosecutor Andre Jumabhoy on Friday.

In response, Ko said she did not see how that was different from having the tendency to call on a select group of students for answers.

"At that time, I thought he was humorous and charming when he teaches," she added.

Asked about her purchase of the $740 Mont Blanc pen for Tey, Ko said in court on Thursday that it was a belated birthday gift for him. This detail was not recorded in the CPIB statement she gave, however.

Responding to that, Ko admitted that she had "failed to convey (it) to them at that point in time", but said, "I wanted to buy him a belated birthday present because I liked him, and the reason (for it) being a pen was that sometime during our conversation he said he had lost a fountain pen."

With regard to the gifts she gave Tey, Ko said that in fact, one of the CPIB recording officers was given "specific orders" to record only what was said "within the parameters" of terms she apparently agreed upon with "the CPIB boss".

"By May 2010 when I bought the pen, he was no longer my professor, (and) I had expressed it to the CPIB that I had a crush on him," she said. "My subsequent statement to CPIB amended only part of this statement, which (was) coerced, and I believe as clearly that the reason behind the gift was my feelings of affection (for him)."

Chief District Judge Tan Siong Thye, who is presiding over the trial, will later have to decide which parts of Ko's evidence to take into consideration for his judgement and which to disregard.

Tey spent the morning's proceedings asking for access to documents he hoped would prove he did not tamper with his former students’ results.

He told the court he filed a criminal motion last year in August to seek academic information of former students, including that of Ko, but had been told his motion was too early.

Documents he requested include those showing students’ exam results for a subject that he taught and Ko attended. He also asked to be able to examine the results of thesis papers written by ex-students to prove that there was no dishonest or corrupt alteration for Ko’s grade. 

Chief District Judge Tan rejected most of Tey's requests, though he granted his application for the release of exam marks and percentile standing of his students.

Tey, a former district judge, has been accused of corruption by obtaining gratification in the form of gifts, dinner and sex from Ko, his former student, between May and July 2010.

These gifts included a $740 Mont Blanc pen, $236.20 worth of tailor-made shirts, a $160 iPod Touch, a $1,278.60 payment for dinner.

He and Ko had sex in his NUS office on two separate occasions, she said on the stand.

Related stories:
I lost my virginity to NUS law prof: Darinne Ko
Who is the woman in the sex-for-grades scandal?
NUS law prof in sex-for-grades scandal identified