Axact-gate probe: Foreign experts might be called in for help, says Nisar

Published: May 21, 2015
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PHOTO: FILE

PHOTO: FILE

ISLAMABAD: 

The government is willing to enlist the help of foreign experts, if required, to investigate the fake degrees scam of software company Axact, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar told a news conference on Wednesday.

The multimillion-dollar fraud was exposed through a special report in the New York Times (NYT), following which the minister directed the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) to take up the case.

On Tuesday, the FIA raided Axact headquarters in Karachi and the regional offices in the twin-cities of Islamabad and Rawalpindi. Thirty-five employees were detained and several computers and phones confiscated. However, Interior Minister Nisar said no one was detained.

The government has directed the Federal Board of Revenue and the Securities & Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) to provide all relevant information on the company to FIA investigators, Nisar told the media on Wednesday. “I ordered the inquiry into the Axact scandal because the credibility of state institutions is being undermined by such reports.”

A seven-member FIA team has been constituted to probe all corporate matters related to Axact, he said. “The FIA team will ensure transparency in the investigation, which will be concluded as soon as possible.”

The interior minister’s news conference came after the SECP issued a show-cause notice to the software company regarding its “ultra vires activities which are not authorised by its memorandum of association”.

“Another notice for calling information … has been issued to the Axact (Pvt) Limited and all its associated companies in order to gather further information,” read the official statement.

Nisar requested the media to refrain from arriving at conclusions on the Axact scandal. “We are not investigating a murder case. No one has been killed or hurt.”

Regarding media reports that the case was transferred to FIA’s Corporate Crime Circle, he said, “The case has not been transferred from FIA’s Cybercrime Circle.”

The minister denied all reports claiming that Axact Chief Executive Officer Shoaib Sheikh’s name was put on the Exit Control List.

He also denied the allegations that the Pakistani government’s help was essential in running the fake degrees mill. “The inquiry will be fair and no one can pressurise the FIA team. Axact’s Karachi and Islamabad offices have been sealed, and the education director of the company has been served notice.”

About the material evidence seized by the investigators, Nisar said, “The FIA has seized 42 company servers. Experts suggest it could take a month to conduct forensic auditing.” All forensic reports will be presented before the relevant institutions, like parliament, if required, he added.

Initially, 10 directors of the company will be grilled about the scam, he told the journalists. “If required, more will be called in for questioning.”

Responding to an NYT editorial that said it was ‘hard to believe’ the Pakistani government was unaware of Axact’s activities, Nisar said he had ordered the investigation soon after the exposé was published. “Show patience and wait for the inquiry in Pakistan to conclude. It is not unusual for governments to take action on media reports.”

Published in The Express Tribune, May 21st, 2015.

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Reader Comments (18)

  • Hobo
    May 21, 2015 - 9:05AM

    genius people Pakistanis :’)Recommend

  • Andaleeb Mirza
    May 21, 2015 - 9:37AM

    Why is the Axact website not shutdown? They are still selling their diplomas and online degrees to unsuspecting students who give up their parents’ hard-earned money to these fraudsters.Recommend

  • Just Sayin
    May 21, 2015 - 10:07AM

    This is somehow ridiculous on our part. This whole media reaction and government response on the basis of SINGLE article published in NY times is nauseating. 99.9% of Pakistanis, government officials didn’t know about this company before that article. We can understand why media specifically TV channels are picking this up – their competitor “BOL” was about to be launched by that group with journalists and anchors sucked from each and every channel. All these guys like Nisar, khurshed shah are pro-Geo or pro-Amir Mahmood so they have to be loyal to their bosses.

    What I am trying to say here is that, if you read an article in some foreign paper like NYT, would you react in the same way? Logical path would be seek proofs from NYT or from any other sources and then get a grip on the culprits. Recommend

  • harry
    May 21, 2015 - 10:10AM

    All hypothesis. Its a conspiracy of “saith” owned pathetic media groups who treat there employees like inhuman. Axact is Pakistan’s largest IT company and provides employment and perks to the educated youth of Pakistan. The old media groups don’t want a good company and a new channel to flourish and give the educated youth of Pakistan a chance to work in good corporate environment. The rest of the saith/seth media channels don’t even know the spelling of corporate culture and don’t want to spend or facilitate there employees with handsome salaries and treat them human.Recommend

  • harry
    May 21, 2015 - 10:14AM

    Ch. Nisar, the interior minister never took an action on surrey palace, documentary of bbc on the money laundering of nawaz shareef and other millions of corruption scandals. They are targeting a company and pmlN has become a party with the old media groups to carry out there personal vendetta. The employees working there will suffer but in Pakistan who cares, that is the reason the economy of Pakistan is in shambles.Recommend

  • May 21, 2015 - 10:32AM

    A very good idea to call in foreign experts, since it was they who let the pigeons fly out of the bag. Also, let the name of the owners be known if it has to be impartial. The citizens have a right to know. SalamsRecommend

  • Danish
    May 21, 2015 - 10:43AM

    Axact as it is reported seems to have plotted drastic fraudulent means to earn profits or even to launder money for the politicians; among them might be the biggest names of the provincial cabinet. I believe Pakistan’s richest people are involved in more fraudulent means than selling fake degrees. Axact is serving the market of fake degrees because people are inclined to find a short way for education certificates, if a person is literate enough to search for online courses, I believe it’s that individuals job to inquire about the fake universities rather than just buying the degrees based on the content of the website and speaking to the company specific agents, its always better to do some research so blaming Axact is not just the answer to all problems, blaming the individuals also is equal. I am not saying that selling fake degrees is right but on the other hand, Is the corporate world so incompetent to identify the real talent versus a fake degree holder? And does a degree gives you a real talent? I am a legitimate degree holder of one of the top 20 universities of the world, with the working experience in America’s biggest bank, when I came to Pakistan it took me months of struggle to get a job, further to note that I am not an AXACT employee nor is linked to any one in AXACT.

    Do you really think that the fake degree holders would be able to grasp a good a job? In the western countries, interviews are conducted to hire people, in Pakistan even if you dont have a degree and a good reference you will end up in getting a good job, though going forward you will require to bring up a degree in order to meet up the policy requirements for promotions, that creates a market for AXACT.

    Investigating Axact, closing its illegal businesses and fining it is feasible, in US some of the big banks are fined for their more lethal practices and damages than Axact has caused but closing it down is way aggravating and punishing. It employs thousands of individuals, closing it down means making those individuals unemployed in a country where already massive unofficial unemployed statistics hold. It will increase the crime rate in the country which cannot be controlled.Recommend

  • Timorlane
    May 21, 2015 - 10:59AM

    Axact-gate !!

    Our Pakistani “creative” minds can’t even coin a new term for

    our indigenous scandals. Wow they we call ourselves as

    “creative”, hahahahaha…phewRecommend

  • Humble Pie
    May 21, 2015 - 1:35PM

    All of those online institution websites were deployed on same server. Interestingly, axact.com & bolnetwork.com were also hosted on the same server. Any IT related guy who has little knowledge about his field would tell you that it cannot be a mere coincidence. Another important point to note the alleged hosting provider of those sites don’t allow to register. All this confirm that NYT story indeed is true.

    There is no more further evidence required after this for someone who has a background of IT, in particular web-development, and knows his work well.Recommend

  • Ali S
    May 21, 2015 - 1:44PM

    Can’t believe there still are people who think this company isn’t a scam. Check their entry on Glassdoor.com (an employer rating website), several employee reviews from as far back as 2012 talk about their fake degrees business and unethical practices.

    I also found an Instagram of an Axactian (just hashtag search it) who posted an ‘at work’ pic – guess what, the computer screen in the background was clearly showing a chat room of ‘WalesBridge University’ (which is mentioned in NYT’s list of Axact-run universities).

    Plus this Shoaib Shaikh guy (saw his ARY interview yesterday) looks more like the next water kit car guy than the next Bill Gates.Recommend

  • Muhammad Kashif
    May 21, 2015 - 2:11PM

    @ All,

    Please understand all fake universities based in USA and UK had Axact as their outsourced online learning centre.

    We Pakistanis simply see one side of truth.Recommend

  • NA
    May 21, 2015 - 2:11PM

    Another big news which is published in global newspapers today (also published in your esteemed newspaper) says.. “US and British regulators fined six major global banks a total of nearly $6 billion for rigging the foreign exchange market and Libor interest rates. Biggest names in the banking industry like Barclays, JPMorgan Chase, Citicorp and RBS all pleaded guilty to US Justice Department charges of conspiring to manipulate the massive currency market”.

    Despite this and countless other scandals and wrong doings in the past, did their respective Govts forced these banks to close down?

    Should we close this company?Recommend

  • citizen26
    May 21, 2015 - 2:46PM

    Mr Nisar are you 100% certain that this is not a conspiracy against Pakistan or Pakistani company? Unrecognised colleges and universities are not illegal unless they engage in illegal acitivies. Per Axact they do not issue degrees or diplomas neither they have any authority to do so. No idea what the invcestigation is all about. Need more clarity.Recommend

  • May 21, 2015 - 6:29PM

    All of those online institution websites were deployed on same server. Interestingly, axact.com & bolnetwork.com were also hosted on the same server. Any IT related guy who has little knowledge about his field would tell you that it cannot be a mere coincidence. Another important point to note the alleged hosting provider of those sites don’t allow to register. All this confirm that NYT story indeed is true.
    There is no more further evidence required after this for someone who has a background of IT, in particular web-development, and knows his work well.Recommend

  • Rehan
    May 21, 2015 - 6:54PM

    Because we don’t have anyone capable of looking into this matter. Because we have never bothered training people to do this job because we are busy working on real projects to make real changes that matter like metrobus. Recommend

  • ilyas
    May 21, 2015 - 10:53PM

    @harry:
    Your real name and background please. Recommend

  • May 21, 2015 - 11:52PM

    Multiple allegations were raised against geo earlier and those were more sensitive but govt stayed silent. Same for other scandals about media houses and Swiss cases. This news report came up and govt is suddenly on toes. The interior minister who took more then a week to take notice of Ahmadiya carnage took only 6 hours to take Action on nyt report about bol channel. There is something more then fishy.Recommend

  • true_paki
    May 22, 2015 - 12:32AM

    I guess those supporting Axact either are really innocent and naive or have vested interest. My brother worked for it as far back as 2009 and found out the real business of Axact was fake degrees, while software part was just the fake front. He told me names of some famous people who we see on tv quite regularly that they yave bought degrees from Axact. Obviously those powerful people would not want the truth to come out and they may also be blackmailed into defending Axact..

    I just hope that the inquiry is transparent, but i must say that no one has ever trusted FIA as a transparent agency, quite sad!!Recommend

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