Axact CEO, Shoaib Sheikh, and 22 other company officials have been sentenced to 7 years each in prison by a district and session court in a fake degree scandal.
On 5th July, District and Sessions Judge Chaudhry Mumtaz Hussain announced the verdict. As reported by Dawn, the accused were sentenced to jail under multiple charges amounting to a collective punishment of 20 years but since all the punishment will run concurrently hence, they will spend a maximum of 7 years in jail.
The detail of the fine and punishment of the 23 convicts is:
- Three years imprisonment along with a fine of PKR 100,000 under Sections 419/109/34 of Pakistan Panel Code (PPC).
- Three years in jail with a fine of PKR 200,000 under Sections 420/109/34 of PPC
- Seven years of punishment in jail along with a fine of PKR 500,000 under Sections 468/109/34 of PPC
- Seven years imprisonment with a fine of PKR 500,000 under Sections 471/109/34 of PPC
The fake degree scandal rocked the tech industry of Pakistan and came to light in 2015 when The New York Times published a story titled “Fake Diplomas, Real Cash: Pakistani Company Axact Reaps Millions” claiming that Axact sold fake degrees online through hundreds of fictitious schools, making “tens of millions of dollars annually.” The story further 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 that manipulate the people to buy fake diplomas and degrees from them. Even after being convicted, Axact resumed its work and started to once again issue fake diplomas and degrees. The Software house was then investigated by Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) to look into the matter.
After the scam was revealed, the offices of the company were sealed and its CEO and other officials were arrested. A senior manager of the company, Umair Hamid, was sentenced to 21 months in a US jail in August 2017 for his involvement in Axact’s fraud.
It is important to mention that Axact officials were earlier acquitted. However, this year in February the Supreme Court took the notice of acquittal and FIA reached out to Islamabad High Court against the decision of the trial court that had acquitted the suspects.