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May 20, 2015

FIA raids Axact Karachi HQ, no record taken

Top Story

May 20, 2015

KARACHI/ISLAMABAD: The Cyber Crime Unit and Corporate Crime Circle teams of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) on Tuesday raided the offices of local IT company Axact in Karachi.
However, neither did the FIA team seize any server, computers or other data nor did it make any arrest at the Karachi office. Meanwhile, the company’s Rawalpindi and Islamabad offices have been sealed and employees were being questioned at the site.
Raids by the FIA teams were carried out after Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan had announced an investigation into the allegations levelled by The New York Times in its story, claiming that Axact was was involved in selling fake educational degrees and diplomas through factious websites.
Local electronic media channels, reporters and photographers rushed to the Axact building in Karachi’s DHA area following the raids by the FIA teams but they were prevented by the private security guards of the company from getting near to the building while guards also prevented company employees from talking to reporters.
The first raid at the Axact building in Karachi was carried out at around 2:00pm on Tuesday afternoon when a team of investigators from FIA’s Cyber Crime Wing led-by its Deputy Director Ahmed Zaeem visited the Axact offices.
The FIA Cyber Crime unit officials remained in the Axact building for over two hours.Following the raid by the Cyber Crime Unit, another team of the FIA’s Corporate Crime Circle with its Deputy Director Kamran Attaullah visited the Axact building again on Tuesday evening and questioned the directors, human resource managers and IT employees.
An FIA official said HR manager of the Axact was questioned by them and he was asked to provide all the details including the number of the serving company employees, even those who left the company besides providing reasons for their leaving the company.
Later, talking to media persons outside the Axact building in Defence area, Kamran

Attaullah said they had only launched an ‘inquiry’ against the company and stated that neither any employee of Axact had been detained nor arrested by the FIA.
“We visited the company office to seek some record including details of the company employees,” the FIA official said, adding that media should not create any hype of their visit to the Axact offices.
He said notices have been issued to Axact officials to appear before the Cyber Crime and Corporate Crime officials on Wednesday while records, details of the employees and their businesses have also been sought to complete the inquiry launched by the FIA.
To a query, he said some records had been acquired by the officials while details of the company’s serving employees as well as those who left had also been sought and added that server centre of the company had been locked by the officials so that nothing could be altered till inquiry is completed.
On the other hand, a spokesman for FIA Sindh Liaquat Ali said he was not aware if the Axact Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Shoaib A Shaikh had been summoned by the FIA officials to appear before them as part of the inquiry against the company.
Meanwhile, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan has asked the FIA authorities to submit inquiry report on the issue of fake degrees scam within 15 days. The Interior Ministry taking prompt action against the masterminds of Axact has constituted a seven-member joint investigation team (JIT) to probe allegations and reality of Axact.
Director FIA Sindh Shahid Hayat has been tasked to probe the biggest scam of its kind in the country’s history and seven deputy directors including four from Islamabad and three from Sindh have been included in the investigative team that raided offices of Axact at Rawalpindi, Islamabad and Karachi.
Deputy Director Tahir Tanveer headed the FIA team that raided offices of Axact in Rawat and DHA, Rawalpindi. The FIA officials seized data-storage devices and computers of the company and also shifted 25 employees of the company to FIA Forensic Cell for preliminary investigations.Keeping in view sensitivity of the issue, Chaudhry Nisar is personally monitoring investigations of this mega scam.
Sources in the Interior Ministry stated that investigations on Axact are being categorised in two phases. In first-phase of investigations, all the allegations levelled by Declan Walsh in NYT news story would be judged against Axact and in send phase, all the technicalities and relating issues will be investigated regarding status of Axact. Cyber Crime Wing of FIA is taking lead to probe the scam of fake degrees and in this regard, FIA officials are taking prompt action and checking seized 40 computers from two offices of Axact for forensic investigations.
The FIA officials during raid at Rawat office of Axact seized all the manual record of the company and shifted employees of the company to FIA Cyber Crime Cell, Iqbal Town, Rawalpindi for preliminary investigations.
The world media is considering this scam as the biggest ever financial scam of the known history. Shoaib Ahmed Sheikh, the owner of Axact, in his different speeches and interviews used to claim that he wants to become the richest person in the world, even richer than Bill Gates of Microsoft.
After revelations of the NYT, the ball is now in the court of Pakistani authorities and federal agencies to take investigations of this scam to its logical end as this scam has put on stake credibility of Pakistan’s educational certificates across the world.
On other side, Axact that is going to launch biggest media house in Pakistan in month of August and many big names in the field of anchoring had joined the media group have not yet come forward to defend their parent company’s involvement in the scam.
Axact’s role on the fake diploma mill was first exposed in 2009 when an American woman in Michigan, who was angry that her online high school diploma had proved useless, sued two Axact-owned websites. Diplomas and courses offered through websites of Axact have neither any affiliation nor registered with any educational institute as demonstrated by the websites propagated through Axact. Fake degree certificates, fake reference letters, fake attestation certificates and fake acknowledgement certificates was hallmark of Axact and once a student got trapped in their web of online education, he was left with no other option to pay them to get certificates on different excuses and presumptions.
An IT expert stated that Axact scam has created question mark on IT business in Pakistan and government should make investigations against Axact to restore confidence of the world community over Pakistan and its companies doing businesses in foreign countries.
The SECP sources also revealed that Axact was registered in 2006 and in its memorandum of association, it was not mentioned that the company will be utilised for educational purposes as it was registered specifically for IT business and call centres.
On the other side, the FBR sources said they were checking record shown by Axact relating to their assets and tax returns. The FBR sources also revealed that Axact administration had misused Income Tax Ordinance 2001 to evade tax.
The FIA sources said that the people who played key role in the fraud will be interrogated and will be arrested, saying that Axact administration use to hire professional bloggers to instigate students across the world to take online admissions in universities suggested by Axact. Similarly, different authentic names and logos were also utilised to lure the students to take online admission in schools, colleges and universities offered by Axact. The irony is that all these schools, colleges and universities remained ghost and students without study got certificates after payment of handsome amount in bank accounts of Axact.The FIA said that criminal cases will be lodged against the people involved in the scandal.

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