Chinese billionaire with S'pore passport reportedly paid S$8.86mil to get daughter into Stanford

He said before in 2015 that he looks down on kids who don't rely on their own abilities.

Kayla Wong | May 03, 2019, 04:01 PM

A Chinese billionaire, Zhao Tao, has been accused of paying a whopping US$6.5 million (S$8.86 million) to get his daughter into Stanford University, one of the top universities in the United States (U.S.)

The information was revealed by a person with "direct knowledge of the investigation", according to New York Times (NYT).

Singapore citizen?

According to Forbes, Zhao also owns a Singapore passport and is a Singapore citizen.

He was one of the 22 Singaporeans who made it to the Forbes' 2019 Billionaires list.

The chairman of Shandong Buchang Pharmaceuticals, a drug company which supplies traditional Chinese medicine and health supplements, has a net worth of about US$1.8 billion (S$2.5 billion) as of February 2019.

Tried to get recruited through sailing but did no sailing herself

According to the NYT report, Zhao made the payment to a college consultant named William Singer.

Singer then tried to get Zhao's daughter, Zhao Siyu (赵思雨), whose English name is "Molly", recruited to the sailing team in Stanford.

He allegedly provided a list of fake sailing accomplishments, and even made a US$500,000 (S$682,000) donation to the sailing programme after Zhao's daughter was admitted into Stanford.

However, she was not recruited by the sailing coach at Stanford.

According to a report by Lianhe Zaobao, Zhao got to know Singer through Michael Wu, an ethnic Chinese financial adviser who was working at an Asian branch of multinational investment bank Morgan Stanley.

A spokesperson from the investment bank told the media that Wu has since been fired because of his refusal to cooperate in the investigations.

"I got in through hard work"

Zhao Siyu, had taken to Weibo when she was first accepted into Stanford.

She majored in psychology and East Asian studies, according to Daily Mail.

The video, that was over 90 minutes long, was recorded the summer before she started her freshman year in late 2017.

She was 17 years old at that time.

Siyu said in the livestream video that although she only scored "30 points" for her examination when she was in primary school, she later became a top scholar in the U.S. through sheer "hard work".

Therefore, she encouraged her audience to "keep holding on to their dreams, and don't ever give up".

She also denied her entrance had anything got to do with her family's wealth:

"Some people think, 'Didn’t you get into Stanford because your family is rich?'

It wasn’t like that, she says. The admissions officers “have no idea who you are.”

Screenshot of Zhao in her livestream video via Zhang Zhou/Weibo

She also said she rode horses when she was free, and that she planned to take sociology classes at Stanford and go back to China after graduating.

Paid Singer to help others

Previously, Zhao said in a Chinese magazine that he does not spoil his children with their own cars, according to NYT.

He also said he looks down on "those kids who don't rely on their own abilities":

"If I come across one, I give them a dressing down right away. I just can't stand that type".

Zhao Siyu's mother has since spoken out on the matter, admitting that she had indeed made the payment to Singer, but that she did it under the impression that it was a donation to help others, according to a report by CNN.

No longer at Stanford

According to NYT, while prosecutors have not brought any charges against Zhao Siyu nor her parents, she has been expelled from Stanford.

The Stanford Daily reported that she was expelled on March 30, three days before Stanford announced the expulsion.

Chinese netizens

News of the scandal sparked a fierce discussion on Chinese social media.

Many speculated if Zhao Siyu had known of the financial exchange her father had with Singer.

Screenshot via Zhang Zhou/Weibo

"She should be aware of what her parent did for her to get into Stanford. To enter the sailing team in Stanford, she had to fill out a bunch of application forms herself. Sailing teams in top American universities are basically on the Olympic level. To be able to do this, she's not only daring, but also foolish. To tell others that it's fair competition is also a way of showing off."

Screenshot via Zhang Zhou/Weibo

"This girl looks like a kind child. So trolls, please spare her!"

"If we judge a person based on his or her looks, why do we still need the law?"

Others involved too

Another Chinese student, Sherry Guo, was also involved in the scandal.

Guo's parents had reportedly paid US$1.2 million (S$1.6 million) to get their daughter into Yale University.

According to Associated Press (AP), Singer prepared a fake application for Guo that described her as an excellent soccer player, despite Guo never playing the sport competitively before.

The application was then submitted to Yale by a soccer coach who received a US$400,000 (S$545,500) bribe from Guo's parents.

AP reported that prosecutors have not revealed why neither Zhao Siyu's nor Guo's parents, have not been charged.

Fifty people have been charged so far in the largest college admissions scandal in the U.S., according to CNN.

But the amount Zhao paid was by far the largest known in the controversy.

Top image via Weibo