Fake degrees case: Axact CEO, wife appear in court


KARACHI: Axact CEO Shoaib Shaikh and his wife on Monday appeared before the additional district and sessions judge (South) after the two’s production orders were issued earlier in the day owing to their no-show in the fake degrees case.

As the hearing of the case went underway on Monday, the accused failed to appear in court despite a summons.

Judge Sarah Junejo directed the authorities to ensure the suspects’ presence and adjourned the proceedings for a brief period.  Later, as Shaikh appeared with his wife, his security staff manhandled media persons on their way to the courtroom.

The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), which has lodged the case against Shaikh, will now present its witness in court, where the in-camera hearing is taking place.

The chief executive and senior officials of Axact, which claims to be the “world’s largest IT company” but operates hundreds of fake online universities, were arrested on charges of fraud in May 2015 after an expose` in The New York Times.

At present, of the total four cases registered against Axact, the accused have been acquitted in two — one in Islamabad and another in Karachi — while one is underway in Karachi and the last, in Peshawar, is yet to start.

Moreover, the Sindh High Court (SHC) has summoned Shaikh and the other accused on February 21 with regards to the FIA’s appeal against the suspects’ acquittal by a lower court.

On February 15, the Sindh High Court (SHC), on the appeal of Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) against acquittal of Axact fake degrees scam suspects by a lower court, had summoned Axact Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and owner of Bol Network Shoaib Sheikh along with other accused after the suspects remained absent from the court proceedings.

Justice Naimatullah Phulpoto inquired why Sheikh was not present in court despite an earlier summons. Sheikh’s counsel Imdad Advocate informed the bench that his client is unwell.

Expressing displeasure, the court ordered the counsel to present his client’s medical certificate in court at the next hearing and also summoned Sheikh at the next hearing on Feb 21.

Earlier the Supreme Court (SC) on February 9, directed the high courts in Sindh and Islamabad to promptly decide the pending cases regarding the Axact fake degree scandal, as it rescinded its order to put the names of all the accused on the Exit Control List (ECL).

The court ordered Shaikh, to submit a written reply in the case and hand over his passport to the Sindh High Court. The bench took back its order to place names of the accused on ECL on the request of senior journalists, including Sami Ibrahim and Javed Soomro, and directed Shaikh to submit a written guarantee that he would not leave the country.

Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Mian Saqib Nisar conducted a hearing of the suo motu notice of the Axact scam. He maintained that Pakistan’s reputation is at stake but the investigation in the case is quite weak and frail.

Pervaiz-ul-Qadir had granted bail to Shoaib Sheikh over the fake degree case in October 2016.

The issue came under the spotlight in May 2016 when The New York Times published an article, alleging Axact of selling fake degrees online through hundreds of fictitious schools.