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English center chain Apax Leaders suspends tuition refund

English center chain Apax Leaders suspends tuition refund

Wednesday, March 27, 2024, 13:30 GMT+7
English center chain Apax Leaders suspends tuition refund
English center chain Apax Leaders announces that it will remain operational following the arrest of its chairman Nguyen Ngoc Thuy. Photo: Trong Nhan / Tuoi Tre

Egroup Education Group JSC, the owner of the Apax Leaders English language center chain, has announced that it would cease refunding prepaid tuition fees to parents pending an investigation into its board chairman and general director Nguyen Ngoc Thuy, alias Shark Thuy, who was arrested over fraud allegations.

In its press release on Tuesday, Egroup said that Thuy, also chairman and general director of Egame Investment and Distribution JSC, had authorized Nguyen Thi Dung, a member of the leadership of Egroup and Egame, to manage the two firms.

Thuy had also transferred his entire stakes and shareholder rights in the two businesses to Dung.

Egroup said it had quickly drawn up plans to ensure the group’s business.

It will give priority to the stable operations of the units under its umbrella, including Apax Leaders, kindergarten chain STEAMe Garten, and critical and creative thinking training system CMS Edu, to ensure the benefits of learners, customers, partners, and shareholders.

Lieutenant General To An Xo, spokesperson for the Ministry of Public Security, announced on Tuesday that investigators of the ministry detained Thuy on Monday evening.

Shark Thuy previously made his name on the investment reality show Shark Tank Vietnam.

P., a parent in Ho Chi Minh City whose two children used to learn at Apax Leaders, said he and many other parents felt happy as relevant agencies have investigated the case after they demanded tuition refunds and cried for help for over a year.

He added that Apax Leaders owes him VND115 million (US$4,611) in prepaid tuition refunds.

Earlier, the chain was committed to giving back to him 20 percent of the amount in a first installment on October 9, 2023.

The following four 20-percent installments were scheduled for November 20 and December 20 last year and March 20 and April 20 this year.

However, P. had yet to receive the refunds, he noted, adding that many parents were keeping a close watch on the case and were worried if they would get their money back.

T., another parent in Ho Chi Minh City, seemed luckier than P. as she was refunded VND4.8 million ($192.50), or five percent of the amount that Apax Leaders has to repay to her. The chain currently owes her VND93 million ($3,722).

“I know that it’s hard to take money back from Shark Thuy, but I hope I can [take it back]. For many families, tens of millions of Vietnamese dong is a big amount.

“I know [Apax Leaders] owes many parents over VND200 million [$8,019], even VND300 million [$12,045] each,” T said.

According to N., whose child used to be a learner at Apax Leaders, he paid some VND105 million ($4,200) in early 2022 for his child’s 12-month course at an Apax Leaders center. 

However, the center was shut down two months later, explaining that it had to restructure its space. The center later apologized to him, saying that it closed due to a shortage of teachers.

Although Apax Leaders has repeatedly promised to refund the tuition, their plans remain on paper. N. has yet to obtain his refunds.

It's not an issue if I cannot reclaim the money, but the case should be handled rigorously as a precedent,” N. shared.

‘Shark’ Thuy (R) at a meeting with parents in Ho Chi Minh City in 2023. Photo: Trong Nhan / Tuoi Tre

Shark Thuy (R) at a meeting with parents in Ho Chi Minh City in 2023. Photo: Trong Nhan / Tuoi Tre

Last year, many people accused Shark Thuy of misappropriating trillions of Vietnamese dong.

Lots of parents complained that the chain received tuition fees for long-term courses but then a host of APAX Leaders centers were closed without advanced notice or switched to online courses.

Many parents in Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi, Da Nang City, and Dak Lak Province in the Central Highlands said that the centers also failed to provide educational services of good quality as they previously guaranteed, so the parents demanded tuition refunds.

According to the Ho Chi Minh City Department of Education and Training, the Apax Leaders English language center system’s unpaid tuition refunds to parents in Ho Chi Minh City total around VND93.8 billion ($3.8 million).

It also owes teachers and employees VND11.5 billion ($468,788) and VND9 billion ($367,279) for space rental as of February 2023.

The chain is liable for VND31 billion ($1.3 million) in health and social insurance premiums for Vietnamese laborers and VND1.3 billion ($53,051) for foreigners, the municipal social insurance agency reported.

The chain, in a report sent to the department on February 26, proposed extending the closure of two centers until June this year, offering online classes to students of these two centers, shutting down 26 venues, and relocating 13 others.

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Thanh Ha - Trong Nhan - A Loc / Tuoi Tre News


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