A husband and wife who run a popular tutorial school in Hong Kong have been arrested on suspicion of exaggerating her academic qualifications after it emerged that the woman, who claimed to be an academic high-flyer, was expelled from university before she graduated.

Iris Chan, 38, better known as “Miss Iris Chan”, who taught primary and secondary students English and economics at the Supreme Learning Centre on Lion Rock Road, in Kowloon City, was arrested by customs officers on Thursday.

Her husband, a food science graduate from Chinese University (CUHK), was also detained at the school where he served as a company director and teacher, along with a female employee, 29, who was accused of helping the couple sell courses.

The trio were taken into custody for violating the Trade Descriptions Ordinance, before being released on bail.

Chan had claimed she graduated from CUHK with an honours degree, but an investigation discovered she was expelled from the department of government and public administration before she could finish her course.

Customs officers with some of the evidence they had collected at the tutorial school on Lion Rock Road.

She also promoted herself as a top student in the previous Hong Kong Certificate of Education Examination (HKCEE) in 2000, and claimed she also got straight As in of all the papers in the English exam, but investigators said she actually got three Bs, two Cs and three Ds.

And she claimed to have obtained three As and two Bs in the former Hong Kong Advanced Level Examination (HKALE) in 2002, and straight As in all English papers, but the overall grades were two Bs, two Cs and a D.

Ben Yeung Yuk-man, a commander in the unfair trade practice investigation division, said the investigation was sparked by a tip-off in April. He also said they would examine the academic backgrounds of other teachers.

A source said the 15-year-old school, which has more than 10 teachers, including the couple, covered a wide range of subjects and had been targeting pupils from elite schools within the district, and had earned a reputation in the area.

Under the trade descriptions law, anyone, who during any trade or business, applies a false trade description to any goods or a service commits an offence. The maximum penalty upon conviction is a fine of HK$500,000 (US$64,000) and five years in prison.