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IHC considers maintainability of FIA appeal in Axact case

February 17, 2017

ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court has asked the state’s counsel to argue on the maintainability of a Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) petition challenging the acquittal of Axact CEO Shoaib Shaikh in the fake degrees case.

A deputy director of FIA’s Cyber Crime circle, Islamabad, challenged a Oct 31, 2016, decision of additional district and sessions judge Pervaizul Qadir Memon, who had acquitted Mr Shaikh and 25 others.

In the petition, the FIA stated that an inquiry was initiated against M/s Axact Ltd Islamabad Region for preparing and selling degrees of fake online educational institutions with fake accreditation bodies, enticing innocent people by impersonating as student counsellors within Pakistan and abroad to pay extra for their fraudulent legalisation/attestation through various governmental institutions and officials.

The FIA raided the office of Axact, located in DHA Islamabad, on May 19, 2015 after the fake degrees scam was highlighted by the media.

The FIA’s petition added that statements of some of the employees clearly showed that their sales agents were pretending to be highly-qualified counsellors of fraudulent, non-existent and fictitious educational institutes, supposedly based in the US by using US-based telephone numbers.

The statements said that sales agents persuaded students to deposit large amounts of money in offshore accounts operated by M/s Axact Islamabad Region in lieu of online degrees, certificates or diplomas and attestation, legalisation and accreditation from different government bodies.

The FIA maintains that the impugned judgement is based on a misreading of the available evidence and that the evidence produced by the prosecution was entirely misinterpreted and not appre­ciated by the trial court.

The oral evidence, which was natural in its flow, was totally and wrongly disbelieved by the trial court in the absence of any hint of malice or ill-will on part of prosecution witnesses, the petition said.

It further claimed that the documentary evidence collected and produced by the investigation agency was sufficient to conclude that the suspects were directly involved in the commission of offence, but the trial court committed an illegality by acquitting the 26 suspects, including Mr Shaikh.

The petition claimed that benefit of the doubt was extended to the accused on an assumptive basis, instead of hypothetical analysis and that the “impugned judgement is based upon surmises and conjectures”.

The Axact case came into spotlight in May 2015 when the New York Times published a report claiming the company had sold fake diplomas and degrees online through hundreds of fictitious schools.

Published in Dawn, February 17th, 2017