Axact, a software company in Karachi, Pakistan, has been accused by the New York Times of selling fake diplomas around the world. The charges and the ensuring investigation were ordered by the country’s Interior Minister, Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, and resulted in a raid.
The New York Times claimed that Axact was linked to at least 370 websites that supplied fake diplomas, many of which claimed to be online universities and high schools in the United States. These websites included paid actors pretending to be professors and students in photos and videos, and the schools’ faked credentials included John Kerry’s signature. Some of the victims of the scam believed that they were real universities and that coursework would begin after they paid dues.
Former employees of the company came forward claiming the company sold diplomas to expand profits. Yasser Jamshaid, a quality control official who left Axact in October, said:
Customers think it’s a university, but it’s not. It’s all about the money.
Investigators from the Times compared coding blocks and site content and design to ascertain these connections, writes Saba Imtiaz and Declan Walsh.
Federal investigators and armed officers shut down Axact’s offices in Karachi and Islamabad and took computers and files, sealing them for future analysis. It is unclear what actions have been taken against employees, as the raid is still ongoing. According to some sources, 45 employees in Islamabad were rounded up. No one from the Karachi office was arrested.
In the wake of a social media uproar, Axact claims innocence and has accused the NY Times of “baseless, substandard” journalism, but the Pakistani government seems assured that the accusations have some basis in fact. Qamar Zaman of the Tribune quotes Senator Aitzaz Ahsan:
It is unfortunate that Pakistan is being defamed … but it seems that the story that has been published is true.
Bol, Axact’s news station scheduled to begin airing in July, has come under suspicion of being allied with Pakistan’s military, which the company says is a rumor for the purpose of sabotaging a competitor so that other media companies don’t lose profits.
This accusation may also have evidence from a previous case involving Axact faking degrees. In 2009, a woman in Michigan sued two websites owned by Axact when her degree from Belford High School was proven useless. 30,000 American claimants joined the case. A Pakistani man, Salem Kureshi, confessed to the crimes, but some believe it was just a cover for Axact, writes Declan Walsh of the Economic Times, as he only ever appeared on camera once in a dimly lit room, and his address was found to be nonexistent. A federal judge ordered Kureshi to pay $22.7 million in damages, which still has not been paid.