‘Diploma mill’: Federal govt seeks fresh trial of fake degree case

Published: March 13, 2018
Axact CEO Shoaib Ahmed Sheikh talks to media outside the Sindh High Court on Monday, May 25, 2016. PHOTO: EXPRESS/FILE

Axact CEO Shoaib Ahmed Sheikh talks to media outside the Sindh High Court on Monday, May 25, 2016. PHOTO: EXPRESS/FILE

ISLAMABAD: The federal government has requested the Islamabad High Court (IHC) to issue directions for a fresh trial of the Axact CEO Shoaib Shaikh and others as the previous judgment in the fake degree case came from a judge who has been removed from service for allegedly taking bribe from the accused.

Deputy Attorney General (DAG) Raja Khalid Mehmood on Tuesday requested the IHC’s division bench, comprising Justice Athar Minallah and Justice Miangul Hassan Aurangzeb, for a new trial.

“The previous trial has no value now, this court should issue directions for trial de novo,” DAG said, adding that the trial court former judge Abdul Qadir Memon had received monetary benefits and he was biased in conducting and concluding the case.

Axact CEO Shoaib Sheikh arrested from outside SHC

Mehmood said the IHC removed Judge Memon from service for taking Rs5 million in bribe to acquit Shaikh and others in the Axact fake degree case. He also read the notification in the court.
Justice Minallah inquired if a new charge will be framed against the suspects in case of new trial. The DAG replied that new charges will be framed and statement of witnesses will also be recorded again.

The bench also directed Shoaib Shaikh to either appear in person before the court on March 20 or file representation through his counsel.

The order came after the court was informed that Shaikh is in Karachi’s Landhi jail under judicial custody. It directed the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) to serve Shaikh with notices through Landhi jail superintendent.

The Axact case surfaced in May 2015 when The New York Times published a report, claiming the company sold fake diplomas and degrees online through hundreds of fictitious schools.

A senior Axact employee, Umair Hamid, who was arrested in the US last year, has recently pleaded guilty and been sentenced to jail by an American court on charges brought against him for his role in the multi-million dollar fake diploma scheme being run by the Karachi-based IT company.

SHC warns Axact chief over no-show

Earlier, it was alleged that the FIA had recovered bogus degrees from Axact offices and the company had fraudulently sold these degrees to clients in various countries and brought a bad name to Pakistan.

The FIA said an inquiry was initiated against Axact for preparing and selling degrees of fake online educational institutions with fake accreditation bodies, enticing innocent people in Pakistan and abroad through impersonation as student counselors to pay extra for their fraudulent legalisation and attestation through various governmental institutions and officials.

Consequently, several raids were conducted across Pakistan, including a raid at the office of Axact located in DHA Islamabad on May 19, 2015.

During the on spot interviews, the regional head and other officials could not provide a justifiable explanation regarding their online fast track Prior Learning Assessment (PLA) education operation.

The FIA had claimed the statements of some of the employees clearly showed that their sale agents were impersonating highly qualified counselors of fraudulent, non-existent, fictitious educational institutes pretending to be based in the US as they used American Universal Access Numbers.

The FIA said Axact persuaded students to deposit large sums of money in offshore accounts operated by Axact Islamabad Region for online degrees, certificates, and diplomas and the attestation, legalisation, and accreditations of these degrees from fictitious bodies.
The counsel for the Axact CEO maintained before the trial court that the FIA could not produce substantial evidence against the suspects. While concluding the trial, Judge Memon had acquitted the Axact officials for lack of evidence in October 2016.

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