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Durban - More than 40 Unisa students who aced their final year exams after allegedly buying stolen exam papers have been quizzed by police.
In the wake of one of the biggest cheat busts in the tertiary education sector in November last year, details have emerged of how the stolen exam papers were couriered to students and written in the privacy of their homes.
At the time, a North Coast invigilator and her daughter were arrested for allegedly selling Unisa exam papers. Their arrest was a joint effort by the police organised crime unit and Unisa.
Police had found that the papers had been stolen from sealed bundles of exam scripts.
A third suspect was also recently nabbed after she was allegedly found in possession of the stolen exam papers at her Stanger Manor home.
On Friday, Sonja Nagel, 45, her daughter, Carla Niemand, and Avril Naraidoo, 30, appeared in the KwaDukuza Magistrate’s Court on theft and corruption charges.
They are all on bail and the matter was adjourned to February 26, for further investigation.
None of the students has been charged, but statements have been taken by police.
A police source said a fourth suspect, a KwaDukuza teacher believed to be the mastermind behind the racket in that town, was also being questioned by police.
The source revealed on Monday that several of the students had admitted buying the stolen exam papers.
The students were identified after police scrutinised the exam register at the Unisa exam centre in KwaDukuza. After quizzing all of them, more than 40 allegedly admitted cheating, the source said. As a result many had passed their exams with several distinctions.
The source said the students alleged the woman had approached them with offers to buy the exam papers for between R400 and R600 each.
“She allegedly took the papers to them at their respective homes. The students would write the exams at home overnight,” the source said. “The following morning the woman would then fetch the answer sheets and drop them off at the exam centre in KwaDukuza. The answer sheets were then posted to Unisa.
“It was a huge racket.”
The source claimed the woman charged the students an extra R50 for her taxi fare to drop off and collect the papers.
In November, more than 40 exam papers, in various subjects, were allegedly found in the possession of Nagel and Niemand. A month earlier, five men were arrested for allegedly stealing exam papers from the Pretoria campus.
KwaDukuza SAPS detective commander, Colonel Bheki Nivard Shange, who is leading the KZN probe, said investigations were at an advanced and sensitive stage.
While he confirmed that the alleged student culprits had been identified, and that further arrests were imminent, Shange refused to disclose further details about the students.
Investigations had revealed that the exam paper thefts had dated as far back as 2010, he said.
It is still unclear if a syndicate was behind the thefts.
Unisa spokesman, Martin Ramotshela, confirmed yesterday the university was pursuing possible charges of theft, fraud and corruption against certain parties.
“It is correct that a third person is under investigation. However, further evidence is being sourced before any charges are brought,” he said.
“It is also correct that students have provided the university and the SAPS with information and evidence, thereby assisting and continuing to advance the investigation.”
Regarding action against the students, Ramotshela said Unisa would deal with each case based on its facts and the relevant circumstances and in terms of the student disciplinary code.
“The university confirms that it has a clear policy of zero tolerance of fraud, corruption and other irregularities and that it applies such policy in the appropriate circumstances,” he said.