Alleged cheating services for students to fork out $2m in settlement

Source: Radio New Zealand

A couple at the centre of a website that allegedly sold completed assignments to students have settled with the Police Commissioner outside of court.

Victoria University Students’ Association president Rory Lenihan-Ikin said the extra would now be enough to cover rent.

The Police Commissioner asked the High Court in Auckland to order Assignments4U website bosses Steven Quan Li and his wife Fan Yang to forfeit more than $4.6 million it said were proceeds of crime.

The investigation also uncovered alleged mortgage fraud by the couple and family members.

The allegations were denied.

The parties have now settled outside of court for less than half the original sum sought by the commissioner.

The court hearing had been set down for four weeks but only lasted two days before the parties settled.

At the hearing, the Police Commissioner's lawyer Mark Harborow argued Assignments4U essentially sold cheating services.

Students would provide the assignment question, word limits, relevant text books and even their university logins.

The fee would generally be set according to the word count required and students would pay more to get a better grade.

If the student didn't get the grade they wanted, the students would get in-store credit.

The company would employ ghost writers to write the assignments.

But Mr Li and Ms Yang said the company also provided spell checking services and facillitated the sale of second hand text books.

They said they only provided model answers that were only ever meant to act as a guide for the students and not meant to be submitted.

The company would give a disclaimer to students to that effect.

The Police Commissioner said that disclaimer was "a sham".

No criminal charges have been laid in the case, despite an investigation that went on for five years. However, the Police Commissioner alleged Assignments4U and the students committed various offences.

The website was shut down after media attention and the Qualifications Authority sought an injunction against Ateama Limited, which runs the website, to stop it operating in 2013.

This case was brought under the Criminal Proceeds Recovery Act and was a civil case.

The investigation also uncovered alleged mortgage fraud by members of Li and Yang's family relating to units on Cook St.

The allegation from the Police Commissioner is that they misled banks about their income when applying for mortgages.

Justice Wooldford noted the company's business model has never been legally tested in New Zealand.

He also declined to discuss whether anything illegal had happened because there had now been a settlement.

The $2.12m settlement, announced in a judgement by Justice Woolford released to RNZ yesterday afternoon is full and final.

It covers the allegations against Assignment 4U and the alleged mortgage fraud carried out by family members of Mr Li and Ms Yang.

The Police Commissioner had argued Assignments4U sold 11,549 assignments from 2006 to 2013 at an average of $406 - that's how they got to the $4.69m figure.

When parties want to settle in proceeds of crime cases, they have to get permission from the Judge.

Justice Woolford found that the settlement would save a significant amount of court time. He also pointed to the Police Commissioner having no legal precedent to point to in the case against Li and Yang.

RNZ applied for the full settlement documents but Justice Woolford said it was not in the public interest to report who has to pay how much and the settlement with one of the parties is confidential.

The judge also said the full facts had not been tested in court.