White City trader paid thousands to pose as dark-skinned Azerbaijani student to sit economics exams


Last updated at 00:23 01 March 2008

'From success to disaster': Jerome Drean

A City trader tried to help a struggling economics student through his degree by sitting the exams for him.

Jerome Drean, 34, who earned hundreds of thousands a year as a financial markets expert, took the tests for Elnar Askerov for the thrill of it.

Paid thousands over 17 months, the Credit Suisse worker used a fake ID card to get into the exam hall.

Their scam succeeded eight times, even though the pair did not closely resemble each other.

Drean is a pale, slight Frenchman, while 23-year-old Askerov, from Azerbaijan, has a heavy build and darker skin.

The ruse was discovered in one of Askerov's final exams in May, when a lecturer spotted Drean and questioned him at the end of the exam.

After initial denials, Drean eventually admitted the fraud and the pair were arrested.

Police later uncovered past exam papers said to have been completed by Askerov, on which Drean's fingerprints were found.

Simon Kealey, prosecuting, told York Crown Court the pair met when Drean, of Islington, London, had helped Askerov to study for his A-levels.

By January 2006, they agreed that Drean would travel from his London home to the University of York to sit Askerov's Economics and Finance exams.

Mr Kealey said: "Drean had taken the exam as a favour but then sat several others at £500 and £750 per exam.

"His wife told him to stop, but Askerov pleaded with him to continue and increased the fees, paying up to £2,000 per exam. He did not want to let his friend down."

Defending Drean, Robert Smith QC told the court the plot had destroyed his life.

Drean had resigned from Credit Suisse and lost his career. He had been forced to move to a smaller house, causing distress to his pregnant wife, and sell several expensive cars.

He said: "This man's life has turned from success to disaster. He will never work for a major bank again."

Mr Smith explained that although Drean was a brilliant academic excelling in maths, he had difficulty in social situations and had Asperger syndrome.

A medical report confirmed that he was "profoundly influenced" by his disorder.

For Askerov, Alexander Cameron QC said: "He is not particularly bright academically but is a decent young man.

"He plainly felt pressure from his family to achieve.'

Askerov was planning to return home to Azerbaijan without any qualifications, he added.

The pair were ordered to pay the money earned to the court, as it was acquired through criminal means.

Drean and Askerov admitted a single charge of conspiracy to defraud the University of York between January 2006 and May 2007.

They pleaded not guilty to charges of using the fake ID with intent. These will lie on file.

Sentencing them both to a nine-month suspended prison sentence, Judge Stephen Ashurst said: "I do not accept that Drean did not know what he was doing was wrong.

"There was a risk-taking, thrill-seeking element to it."

He added: "The court simply does not know how serious a problem examination fraud of this kind may be.

"If it is widespread, it erodes the confidence the public can have in academic degrees and is deeply offensive for the thousands of diligent students who do work hard."

In the same exam, two other students were convicted of cheating.

Qiu Shi Zhang persuaded friend Xian Zhang to sit the exam. They admitted fraud and were sentenced to 100 hours of community service.

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