Ex-worker, parents charged in HK$900,000 bribes-for-kindergarten places case at Hong Kong ESF school
- Former kindergarten administrator Fatima Rumjahn, 52, was earlier dismissed by the English Schools Foundation following an internal probe
- Ten parents who allegedly offered bribes to her were also charged, according to the Independent Commission Against Corruption
A former administrator of a kindergarten under Hong Kong’s biggest international school group has been charged with taking more than HK$900,000 (US$115,400) in bribes from 10 parents to help secure places for their children.
Fatima Rumjahn, 52, was earlier dismissed by the English Schools Foundation (ESF) following an internal probe. She had previously worked for ESF Wu Kai Sha International Kindergarten.
The case involved 13 pupils who had made K1 admission applications to the kindergarten for three school years between 2019-20 and 2021-22, while the alleged bribes in respect of each placement ranged from HK$20,000 to HK$100,000.
Rumjahn faces 13 charges in total – eight counts of conspiracy for an agent to accept an advantage, four of an agent accepting an advantage and one of an agent soliciting an advantage between September 2018 and August last year.
The 10 parents charged, from eight families in total, are aged between 34 and 44. Among them are two couples: Marissa Choy Wai-yin and her partner Lee Chun-long; and Cora Lam Man-hei and her husband Cheung Ka-ming.
The others are six mothers: Tsui Wai-him; Kong Ching-men; Julia Wong Wing-man; Vida Lau Ying-kwan (formerly known as Vida Lau Wai-tak); Ma Yin-man; and Li Jiebing.
Lau jointly faces two conspiracy charges with Rumjahn, while the two couples and the remaining five mothers each jointly face one such charge with the ex-administrator.
Kong also faces a count of inciting an agent to solicit an advantage.
The graft-buster said Rumjahn was responsible for handling admission applications for K1 classes during the period.
Eight charges allege that she separately conspired with the 10 parents for her to accept eight bribes amounting to HK$650,000 to make the school offer eight K1 placements in the 2020-21 and 2021-22 school years to children from the eight families.
Another charge alleges that Kong unlawfully incited Rumjahn to solicit a bribe from Choy to offer a place in the 2021-22 school year to her child.
Four other charges allege Rumjahn accepted four bribes totalling HK$190,000 from four other mothers for the same purpose in the 2019-20 and 2020-21 school years.
The remaining charge alleges Rumjahn solicited a bribe of HK$50,000 from another woman to offer the same help for the 2019-20 school year to her child but the mother rejected the solicitation on the spot.
The ICAC investigation was triggered by a corruption complaint. All defendants were released on bail pending their appearance in Sha Tin Court on Friday for the case to be transferred to the District Court.
ESF chief executive Belinda Greer said the foundation had carried out an internal inquiry and told the ICAC, and fully cooperated with its investigation.
“Based on our own internal investigation, the former staff member was dismissed as she contravened ESF policy,” she said.
Greer said the ESF had also changed its admissions process to eliminate the chance of the alleged offences happening again.
The ICAC also reminded parents they should never offer bribes in exchange for school placements for their children.
Additional reporting by William Yiu