Pakistani CEO arrested for selling degrees from “Barkley” and “Columbiana”

The CEO of a Pakistani company called Axact, which called itself the country’s largest software exporter, was arrested yesterday in Karachi. Axact and its CEO, Shoaib Ahmed Shaikh, are accused of running a global network of selling fake diplomas.

Local television showed pictures of a room filled with the fakes, according to reports in The New York Times and The Guardian. The documents were stamped with letterhead from fake Axact-owned universities with names like Bay View, Cambell State, and Oxdell.

Other Axact institutions adopted names that mimicked well-known US universities, such as “Barkley” and “Columbiana.”

“We have seized hundreds of thousands of fake degrees,” Shahid Hayat, a director for Pakistan’s federal investigative agency, told The Guardian.

Shaikh was shown on Pakistani TV being led to a waiting government car, according to The New York Times. As he got into the car, he told the officials arresting him that he would “see to every one of them.”

Several other Axact officials were arrested as well. The charges include forgery, fraud, and illegal money transfers.

Pakistan has requested FBI assistance to deal with the case, since many of the fake universities are US-based.

The nature of Axact’s business was brought to light in a New York Times article published earlier this month. That article described Axact as employing some 2,000 people, offering “Silicon Valley-style employee perks like a swimming pool and yacht.”

But the company’s real business was selling fake academic degrees on a network of some 370 websites. It was estimated to be earning several million dollars per month. The websites included slick videos, with actors hired to portray professors and students.

Telephone salespeople at Axact worked around the clock, sometimes catering to “customers who clearly understand that they are buying a shady instant degree for money,” according to the Times. Other times, agents would “manipulate those seeking a real education, pushing them to enroll for coursework that never materializes, or assuring them that their life experiences are enough to earn them a diploma.”

The company called the New York Times expose “baseless, substandard, maligning and defamatory,” and a “massive conspiracy by the seths of the Pakistani media industry.”

The arrests come as Axact was on the verge of launching its own TV network and newspaper group. It isn’t clear what will come of those plans.

Link (Ars Technica)

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