NUS law professor in sex-for-grades probe identified

The National University of Singapore associate law professor currently being investigated in a sex-for-grades scandal has been identified as former district judge Tey Tsun Hang.

According to a The New Paper (TNP) exclusive on Wednesday, the equity professor was arrested in April and is now out on bail.

The Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau has him under probe for allegedly having sex with a 23-year-old law student – who has since graduated – in exchange for better grades for an elective course she was enrolled in last year.

It is understood that the student made the first move in approaching the professor and the pair allegedly had sex on more than one occasion.

The student was not arrested, although her statements were taken. According to TNP, the student is currently a pupil at a local law firm.

Other local media reported that she had told some of her friends about her deal with Tey, believing it had blown over.

From government service to academia

Before starting work at NUS Law, Tey was a district judge with Singapore's Subordinate Courts, and had even spent time as a state counsel at the legislation division of the Attorney-General's Chambers.

He did his postgraduate civil law degree at Oxford University, as well as his undergraduate law baccalaureate at King's College London, and had been practicing for a number of years at a top firm here.

Current students at NUS Faculty of Law described Tey as “charismatic”, “nice” and “eccentric”.

One of his former students told Yahoo! Singapore that he had a "peculiar habit of walking around the lecture hall and interacting with individual students" on topics that were not at all related to equity, a second-year course he taught.

She added that he was "somewhat odd" at times, although acknowledging that some of her classmates did find his lectures entertaining.

An upper-level law student, who declined to be named, similarly described Tey as one who “likes to make jokes in lecture and has a quirky sense of humour.”

“He does seem a little eccentric, but you can tell he is a very intelligent person," he said. "He’s nice enough, though, and is always willing to entertain students’ questions after lectures."

A fourth-year NUS law student, who declined to be named, agreed and said that Tey “was very approachable for consultations … [and] has his quirks but generally, he’s a really really nice person”, and added that most of her friends were in agreement with her.

She also commented that competition in the law faculty is strong as “everybody wants to get a second upper [degree] so they can go to bigger and better firms”. The law fraternity here recognises its "Big Four" firms as Allen & Gledhill, WongPartnership, Drew & Napier and Rajah & Tann

The 22-year-old also speculated that the undergraduate in question had probably agreed to have sex with her professor after yielding to the pressure of getting into an established law firm.

What are the charges?

According to Shashi Nathan, director of Inca Law, the undergraduate’s act could be seen as gratification – which is a corruption act to show favour or reward. “[Corruption] doesn’t always have to be an exchange of money; providing sexual service is also a form of gratification,” he said.

However, Nathan noted that the case may not be as straightforward as it seems, as the intention to act corruptly may not be enough to prove corruption in the eyes of the law.

There are two terms to fulfill in order to prove corruption – (1) a corrupt element must be present in the transaction itself and (2) the person under investigation must intend to act in a corrupt manner, he said.

The criminal lawyer also said that since there is an “element of trust in him (the professor) and the institution, he may face a higher sentence” although that depends on the number of charges he is slapped with.

When contacted, a NUS spokesperson said that the university is aware that there is an ongoing investigation regarding an NUS staff member.

“In this case, we have not started our own inquiries, pending the results of the investigations initiated by the authorities, which are ongoing. But we will continue to co-operate fully with the authorities in the meantime,” said the spokesperson.

“When addressing questions of wrongdoing, NUS has a Code of Conduct to which its staff must adhere. Possible consequences of violating the Code of Conduct range from a warning to dismissal.”

-- Additional reporting by Jeanette Tan and Elizabeth Soh