Nisar vows transparent investigation of Axact fake degree scam

Published May 23, 2015
Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan. — DawnNews screengrab
Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan. — DawnNews screengrab

ISLAMABAD: Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan vowed Saturday that a probe into the Axact fake degree scandal would be transparent, and urged the media not to give into speculation.

He was speaking to reporters while holding a press conference in the federal capital during which he also underscored that complete investigation would be carried out into the allegations made in the explosive New York Times (NYT) story authored by Declan Walsh.

Nisar said the ministry would write the letter in next two days, adding that an initial inquiry into the company would be completed in next 10 days after which it will be decided to lodge an FIR or not.

“We will carry out complete investigations of the matter at hand and then it will be decided whether to lodge an FIR or not — Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) will take that decision,” he maintained.

“Interior ministry will be contacting US intelligence agency Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to provide legal assistance to FIA for carrying out investigations in America,” said Nisar. It will also contact Interpol to unearth the alleged fake universities, he added.

The minister further said that FIA has written letter to Security Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP), Federal Board of Revenue (FBR), Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) and the Pakistan Software Houses Association (P@SHA) to apprise them on the matter.

Nisar urged media representatives not to spread false or unconfirmed information, citing "so called FIA sources".

He said that two FIA officers — Inam Ghani and Shahid Hayat — have been appointed in Islamabad and Karachi respectively, and any information regarding the case would come from them.

The interior minister also assured that the ministry will not bear the pressure from any individual regarding the investigation of the Axact scandal and the investigation will be fair and transparent in this regard.

Take a look: Axact inquiry: Nisar asks NYT to refrain from jumping to conclusions

He said media should not be used to spread personal vendettas.

"This case has got international repercussions. I request the media to avoid point scoring on this matter."

He later made a sarcastic comment about the force of the united Pakistani media. "If the media unites against someone, only God can save them."

Last week, action against Axact kicked off after Nisar ordered an inquiry into the story published by The New York Times that claimed the company was issuing fake degrees as part of a massive, global scam.

The minister in his directive also said that the FIA was to determine whether the contents of the NYT story were true and whether the company was involved in any illegal business which may bring a "bad name" to Pakistan.

The detailed NYT report titled "Fake Diplomas, Real Cash: Pakistani Company Axact Reaps Millions" and written by New York Times Pakistan bureau chief Declan Walsh outlined how Axact — referred to as a "secretive Pakistani software company" — 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 it said were in fact paid actors.

FIA officers swooped on the Karachi headquarters of the company on Tuesday, seizing equipment and records and expelling employees from the building.

The company's Rawalpindi office has also been sealed and employees questioned, an official said requesting anonymity.

Read: FIA raids Axact offices, takes records and employees into custody

The raids were sparked by a NYT report that quoted former employees and analysed more than 370 websites of fake universities, accreditation bodies and other purported institutions.

According to the article, the firm had clients from the US, Britain and the United Arab Emirates who had paid sums ranging from thousands to hundreds of thousands of dollars for degrees — with some believing the universities were real and they would soon receive coursework.

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