Executives For The World’s Largest Diploma Mill Arrested

Less than two weeks after an investigative report detailed how a Pakistan-based IT company allegedly raked in millions of dollars a month by selling bogus diplomas, degrees and certifications through a series of fake websites and forceful sales calls, authorities in the country say they’ve arrested the chief executive of Axact.

The New York Times reports that Pakistani investigators arrested Shoaib Ahmed Shaikh and four other Axact executives after discovering a storage room full of blank fake degrees.

The executives have been charged with fraud, forgery and illegal electronic money transfers, as well as money laundering and violating the country’s electronic crimes act, according to authorities.

The charges stem from the Time’s May 18 report that Axact’s picture-perfect image of a bustling Silicon Valley-like corporation was in reality an enormous scheme selling fake academic degrees on a global scale.

Former employees of the company told the Times that the Axact brings in several millions of dollars each month through its fake diploma business where a high school diploma costs around $350 and a doctoral degree can run $4,000 or more.

In some cases, former employees said agents cold-called customers impersonating American government officials, intimidating people into paying thousands of dollars for authentication certificates allegedly signed by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.

Following the Time’s exposé, federal Pakistani investigators began looking into company’s dealings, sealing the company’s offices in Karachi and Islamabad. Because many of the universities allegedly run by Axact are supposedly located in the U.S., investigators in Pakistan have enlisted the help of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Shaikh attempted to squash the quick-moving probe by asking courts to halt the investigation, but those attempts proved futile.

Investigators tell the Times that on Tuesday, the executive led them to a building across the street from the Axact headquarters where they found a room of blank certificates with the letterheads of dozens of fake universities and high schools operated by the company.

Since the arrests were made, Axact’s online business and that of many of the universities it allegedly operated have reportedly shut down. A Times reporter’s attempt to contact sales agents with the company went unanswered.

The NYT reports that Shaikh has denied any wrongdoing but did acknowledge in interviews that Axact had some involvement in the online degree business, saying the company provided telephone support and “document management services.”

Axact Chief Executive Arrested in Pakistan Over Fake Diplomas Scandal [The New York Times]

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