ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court has directed the deputy attorney general to argue over the maintainability of the government’s petition challenging the acquittal of various Axact officials in a fraud, extortion, and money laundering case.
Justice Athar Minallah of the IHC directed DAG Raja Khalid to present arguments on maintainability and justify why the court should issue notices to the respondents – acquitted Axact CEO Shoaib Shaikh and others.
The state, through the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) Cyber Crime Circle deputy director, had challenged the October 31, 2016 decision of Additional District and Sessions Judge Pervaizul Qadir Memon to acquit Shaikh and 25 others.
In the petition, the FIA stated that an inquiry was ordered against Axact for creating fictitious online educational institutes and accreditation bodies through which they sold bogus degrees within Pakistan and abroad, while using staffers posing as student councilors to push their victims to pay even more for fraudulent legalisation or attestation of their documents through various governmental institutions and officials.
A raid was subsequently conducted at the Axact office in DHA Islamabad on May 19, 2015.
During the on-spot interviews, the FIA maintains, the regional head and other officials could not provide a justifiable explanation regarding their online fast track prior learning assessment (PLA) education operation.
The petition further added that the statements of some of the employees clearly showed that Axact’s sale agents were impersonating qualified councillors from “fraudulent, non-existent, fictitious educational institutes, pretending to be based in the US,” for which they used American universal access numbers.
The statements added that they persuaded students to deposit huge sums of money in offshore accounts operated by Axact Islamabad Region as payments for online degrees, certificates, diplomas, and attestation, legalisation, and accreditation from various government bodies.
The FIA has adopted that the impugned judgment is based on “misreading and non-reading” of available evidence, and more so, that the evidence produced by the prosecution was entirely misinterpreted and not appreciated by the trial court in its true perspective.
The oral evidence, which was natural in its flow, was totally and wrongly disbelieved by the trial court in the absence of any hint of malice or ill-will on the part of the prosecution witnesses, it adds.
The petition stated that the evidence collected and produced by the FIA was sufficient to conclude that the suspects were directly involved in the alleged crimes and that the trial court committed an illegality while acquitting the 26 suspects.
The FIA argues that the benefit of doubt extended to the accused persons was on an assumptive basis instead of hypothetical analysis and that the “impugned judgment is based upon surmises and conjecture.”
The petitioner has prayed that the impugned judgment of October 31, 2016 may be declared illegal and set aside. In addition, it is prayed that the accused persons may be convicted and punished in accordance with the law.
The Axact case hit the front pages in Pakistan and across the world in May 2015 after an extensive investigation published by The New York Times accused the company of making billions of rupees through a series of fake degree and diploma mills. The counsel for the Axact CEO had maintained before the trial court that the FIA could not produce substantial evidence against the suspects.
On the other hand, the prosecution had been arguing that the investigation agency had recovered bogus degrees from Axact offices and that the company had sold these degrees to clients across the world, breaking various laws and bringing a bad name to Pakistan.