Pakistani court sends fake degree mill owner to jail
A court in capital Islamabad on Thursday sentenced the notorious owner of a fake degree mill to jail for a minimum of seven years on four counts, according to the court record and local media reports, APA reports quoting local media.
A district court found Shoaib Shaikh, who is listed as the owner of Bol media group and the IT company, Axact, along with 22 of his employees guilty in the fake degree international scam and handed them down seven years in jail each on two counts and three years each on another two counts, local broadcaster Geo News reported.
The convicts were, however, exonerated of money laundering and electronic crimes charges.
Although technically the number of years the convicts were sentenced to totals 20 years, they were likely to remain behind bars just for seven years since all the sentences would be carried out simultaneously.
None of the convicts were present in the court when the judgment was announced. Police, according to the Geo TV, were conducting raids to arrest them.
The convicts also have a chance to appeal the verdict in the high court within seven days.
Meanwhile, the district court acquitted Ayesha Shaikh, the wife of Shoaib Shaikh, and two others for lack of evidence.
Shoaib Shaikh and several other directors had been arrested by the Federal Investigation Agency in May 2015 after the discovery of "hundreds of thousands" of fake degree certificates at the company's headquarters in southern Karachi city.
They were later released on bail, and subsequently acquitted by an Islamabad district court in October 2016 of all charges. But, the Islamabad High Court in April this year not only set aside the acquittal but the district court judge was also sacked after being found guilty of taking a bribe in exchange for giving a favorable verdict to Shaikh and others.
Axact, which claims to be one the world's largest IT companies and is the parent company of one of Pakistan’s biggest media groups, was identified in a New York Times report in 2015 as the culprit behind the selling of fake degrees from 300 bogus universities to people all over the world.
The report alleged that Axact would sell online degrees for $350 to $4,000 for a range of subjects.
Axact is the parent company of the BOL media group, which owns several TV channels in Pakistan.
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