Last week, we received an anonymous PDF storybook called The IAB Story, a trilingual (Korean, English, Chinese) publication containing allegations of lies, embezzlement, and bribery at the International Academy of Beijing (IAB).
The text is accompanied by child-like hand-drawn illustrations, with the plot centering on “HenBur Lee,” an obvious caricature of IAB founder and legal representative Dr. Ben-Hur Lee. The PDF claims that he and his associates embezzled tuition money from the school; when they were caught, lies, fighting, resignation fake-outs, and school closings ensued.
Here’s a typical page from The IAB Story:
The inscription reads: Because HenBur had nothing to do but had a lot of money, he got into trouble with girls, parties and other bad people. He was once a very good man but he and his friends became greedy and started to steal the parent’s tuition money for themselves.
The PDF was sent to us via an intermediary named Panthera Leo, who had the following to say in an email:
The IAB storybook was made by some IAB community members to help get the true story out to the public and help the families and students deal with the loss. The authors of the PDF wish to remain anonymous for now. Ben-Hur Lee is a professional con artist and has stolen money from the parents and also a lot of other investors of the school. He still owes the teachers at least three months of salary, plus their longevity bonus, but refuses to pay.
This isn’t the first time that the alleged scandal has reared its head. In May 2012, a beijingkids forum user called “helibote” gave a detailed account of the IAB scandal, which included accounts of unpaid teachers, abrupt dismissals, and missing money.
To get the other side of the story, we contacted IAB for commentary. We managed to reach Ben-Hur Lee, who provided a four-point official response. (Full disclosure: The points below have been edited for grammar, but their message has been left intact.)
1. The IAB Story is very interesting, but it may easily make people misunderstand IAB.
2. The story was written by some of IAB’s previous community members; right now, they are not part of the IAB community anymore.
3. The authors of the PDF should provide their real names, emails, and phone numbers.
4. IAB’s new leadership will appear in the future and ensure the progress of the school. At that time, IAB will give a new “IAB story” to everyone – like a beautiful rainbow after a big storm.
After this, we also tried to get a comment from the people who put together the PDF. We got a reply from unofficial spokesperson (and PDF sender) Panthera Leo instead:
Ben-Hur Lee is a dangerous man with a lot of dangerous and criminal friends and not many people are interested in sticking their necks out against him. I know the story is true, as does every former parent and staff member. Obviously, Dr. Lee will claim that he is not at fault as he is the one who stole the money from the school.
You should know that IAB currently has NO administration. Dr. Ben-Hur Lee tried to hire Dr. Phil Yang in March 2012 as a new headmaster for the simple reason of tricking him into investing more money into the school. Once he found out he had been tricked, he tried to sue Dr. Lee and was promptly fired in June.
Very few staff from the 2011-2012 year remain at the school. The local Chinese staff will be hesitant to comment on the details of the year, as they are afraid for their jobs or legal repercussions. Dr. Lee has tried to fire every teacher (illegally so) in June in an effort to escape salary payments ordered by the labor board.
[Dr. Ben-Hur Lee] is frantically trying to patch things up with the Beijing Education Commission and various accrediting agencies, but the school is hopelessly sinking. One hundred percent teacher turnover is the least of the school’s problems. I’m sure he will try to draw out the authors of the story and intimidate them with lawsuits or other charges.
You could contact any parent or previous teacher from the school to get their point of view. Many people just want to get back to their normal lives with their families are will not be interested in back and forth arguments.
Leo also provided contact information for former IAB headmasters Tim McDonald and Phil Yang; beijingkids is currently trying to get in touch with them. As IAB continues to rebuild, this undoubtedly won’t be the last time you hear about the school’s financial and internal woes.
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