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Pakistan fake diploma scandal: Axact vice president jailed in US

Axact allegedly earned millions of dollars from scams involving fake degrees, non-existent online universities and manipulation of customers.

world Updated: Aug 29, 2017 22:41 IST
Imtiaz Ahmad
Imtiaz Ahmad
Hindustan Times, Islamabad
Umair Hamid,Axact,Joon H Kim
According to media reports, Axact had created a series of fake websites involving “professors” and students, who were in fact paid actors.(Reuters File)

Umair Hamid, a vice president of the Pakistani firm Axact, has been sentenced to 21 months in prison in the US for his role in an international diploma mill scheme operated through the company.

The 31-year-old from Karachi was also ordered to forfeit $5,303,020.

His sentence was announced by Joon H Kim, the acting US attorney for New York’s southern district , on Monday.

Hamid pleaded guilty on April 6, 2017 to conspiracy to commit wire fraud before US district judge Ronnie Abrams, who imposed the sentence, local media reported.

“Umair Hamid and Axact operated a massive diploma mill that preyed on consumers who thought their tuition would pay for a college education,” said Kim. “Instead, Hamid provided victims with worthless fake diplomas. Defendants like Hamid who profit from fake schools face very real penalties, including prison time.”

According to documents filed in this case and statements made in related court proceedings, Hamid had “helped run a massive diploma mill through his employer, Axact, which has held itself out as one of the world’s leading information technology providers”.

“As a result of this scheme, from in or about 2006, through in or about May 2015, when authorities in Pakistan shut down Axact, Axact collected at least $140 million through US based bank accounts from tens of thousands of individuals around the world,” the indictment read.

Axact came into the limelight in 2015 when a New York Times report titled “Fake Diplomas, Real Cash: Pakistani Company Axact Reaps Millions” outlined how the “secretive Pakistani software company” had allegedly earned millions of dollars from scams involving fake degrees, non-existent online universities and manipulation of customers.

According to the report, Axact created a series of fake websites involving “professors” and students, who were in fact paid actors. Local media reported that after an initial clampdown, Axact has resumed its work and started to once again issue fake diplomas and degrees.

First Published: Aug 29, 2017 20:36 IST