In the US, an FBI investigation known as ‘Operation Varsity Blues’ has found a network of celebrities, business executives and other powerful figures at the centre of a university admissions bribery scandal.
A Californian tutoring organization called the Key is alleged to have made $US25 million by charging parents to secure their children spots in elite Ivy League schools. The Key’s founder, William Singer, is believed to have set up a separate sham charity to launder the money he collected, which he used to help his students cheat their way into securing spots in prestigious colleges.
Singer has pleaded guilty to all his charges, including fraud and two forms of bribery. However, Singer is not the only one under scrutiny. The bribery ring is bringing down multiple parties, including parents and universities. Some parents paid hundreds of thousands, and sometimes millions of dollars per child to a fixer who would channel that money to bribe certain college officials.
The accused parents include American television stars Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin who have lost contract deals and suffered immediate reputational damage as a result of the scandal. Some parents who are prominent business executives have been suspended from their positions while their children, now students, find themselves in an uncertain limbo regarding their continuing enrolment.
Universities such as Yale, Stanford and Georgetown are also facing lawsuits from students claiming that they and others were denied a fair chance at admission. The universities are accused of failing to maintain adequate protocols and security measures that would guarantee the sanctity of the college admission process.
A civil lawsuit has brought allegations against the parents, coaches and university administrators involved in the bribery ring. The scandal has cast an astonishingly wide net over different individuals and institutions, highlighting the pervasive, broad-ranging nature of bribery itself. Bribery isn’t just a white-collar crime; almost anybody in any industry, including the education sector, could engage in it. They can also be held liable for it and face grave penalties as a result.
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