Pakistan arrests owner of 'fake degree factory'

  • AFP, Karachi
  • Updated: May 27, 2015 15:32 IST

Pakistani investigators arrested the head of a firm accused of running a global fake degree empire on Wednesday. They conducted fresh raids at the company's Karachi headquarters and discovered thousands of blank diplomas.

Shoaib Ahmed Shaikh, the CEO of software house Axact, revealed the location of the blank degrees that were ready for printing and fake student ID cards during the course of an interrogation, magistrate Javed Malik told reporters.

Shaikh is currently in the custody of Federal Investigation Agency (FIA). He is expected to be produced before a court to be formally charged later on Wednesday.

"We have now sufficient evidence against the firm and will proceed accordingly to file a case," Shahid Hayat, a senior FIA official said.

Shaikh and six other company directors would be charged under Pakistani laws relating to fraud, cheating, money laundering, and illegal electronic money transfer, two senior FIA officials said.

Pakistan began investigating Axact after it was accused by the New York Times earlier this month of running a network of websites for phoney universities. The elaborate scheme generated tens of millions of dollars annually. Islamabad has also sought the FBI and Interpol's assistance in the probe.

The Times report quoted former employees and analysed over 370 websites of fake universities, accreditation bodies and other purported institutions. It also cited clients from the US, UK and UAE who had paid sums ranging from thousands to hundreds of thousands of dollars for their degrees.

The "university" websites mainly routed their traffic through servers run by companies registered in Cyprus and Latvia. Employees would then plant fictitious reports about Axact universities on CNN iReport, a website for citizen journalism.

Axact had also announced plans to launch a news channel called Bol, which had hired many of Pakistan's leading TV anchors at above-market salaries. Many of the journalists have resigned in the wake of this scandal.

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