‘All of us can be harmed’ Update on Axact and Diploma Mills

Over the past few years I have written a great deal about groups such as Must University, California Paramount and the Axact scandal. Since the raid on Axact headquarters there has been an attempt to prosecute Shoaib Ahmed Shaikh the CEO of Axact. He was arrested on May 27, 2015 after the May 17th edition of The New York Times published an in-depth report exposing the fake degree business. However since then, he has been out on bail and never gone to trial.

There has been some progress in convicting others. Umair Hamid, a senior Axact official was arrested in the United States. According to the Pakistan paper Dawn  and numerous other papers in North America he pled guilty, sentenced him to 21 months in prison, and levied a fine of $5,303,020 for his role in an international diploma mill scheme.

The Axact operations sold phony degrees worldwide and generated a 1/2 billion dollars in sales or more. In a recent article by Canada’s CBC titled All of us can be harmed’: Investigation reveals hundreds of Canadians have phoney degrees,  it revealed more than 800 Canadians could have purchased a fake degree.  In the Middle East, ten’s of thousands were sold as legitimate degrees and the overall worldwide estimate is Axact sold over 200,000 of these documents.

The question is why Axact has not been convicted in Pakistan? The former special public prosecutor of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) Zahid Jamil said that the case against Axact was very strong but it was not presented in court. Many of the people who worked on the case and multiple prosecutors from resigned from the case and left the FIA. There has been some articles published that indicated many prosecutors, investigators and families were threaten and rather endanger themselves, they resigned.

Unfortunately diploma Mills are still operating and selling degrees in the Middle East and elsewhere.  I would suggest If you are contacted by phone or email by a group offering you an opportunity to finish your degree be it Bachelor’s, Master or Ph.D be cautious and before accepting ANY offer.  Find out a great deal more about the school. For example, if you are in the Middle East go to the higher education publication Al Fanar and check their site Monitoring Quality in Arab Higher Education.  This will show you about accredited schools by country. In other countries Google search the school and check very closely who is giving accreditation. Even some agencies could be bogus so Google them as well.

A simple rule of thumb in checking if a school is legitimate or a diploma mill:

  • Consider the cost of the degree
  • What is required to obtain the degree.

If it’s cheap and you do little work to obtain the degree then question if it’s a bogus school.  Do not lie to yourself. The danger you risk is if you choose to get such a degree that is likely from a diploma mill and you present it to an employer who discovers it is bogus, you may well be fired and if an expat could be in some cases, sent home or arrested. Additionally many of these schools once you have signed up and received payment will want more money. If you don’t do it they have been known to threaten to expose you to the government or your employer. Is it really worth taking a chance?

For further information on questionable or bogus schools that are promoting such degrees go to my article Fake degrees: Nixon U and Paramount California U are back. I receive a number of comments on schools you may wish to avoid.

 

Fake degrees: Nixon U and Paramount California U are back!

On October 31st I received multiple messages the case against Axact CEO Shoaib Ahmed Shaikh was dismissed by a District and Session Judge in Pakistan (Court acquits Axact boss in fake degree case). The Axact chief was exposed in a Spring 2015 article by the New York Times that detailed the inner workings of a diploma scam which included the creation of over 300 fictitious educational institutions and accreditation agencies. The diploma mills generated for its owners hundred’s of millions of dollars by selling fake degrees to individuals worldwide and especially in the GCC.

Px19-073 RAWALPINDI: May19 - FIA workers seen during a raid on office of a private company at G. T. Road. ONLINE PHOTO by Raees Khan

May19 – FIA workers seen during a raid on office of a private company at G. T. Road.
ONLINE PHOTO by Raees Khan

Bogus universities have been a subject area I have been following for quite sometime in the US and in the MENA region. I contacted and assisted in early 2015 Al Fanar and The National about another bogus university in which both papers published stories. On May 26th, 2015 I wrote an article on my blog called Call for Action: Shut Down Diploma Mills, which focused on how many people in the GCC have a degree from an Axact bogus university posted on their LinkedIn profile. A number of publications re-printed my article or conducted follow-up stories. In addition many other papers have written on the subject including Gulf News and Emirates 24\7.  I thought the diploma mill companies led by Axact had been exposed and after the raid the Pakistan justice system would convict these perpetrators, I was wrong.

I was contacted by a person who had been duped earlier into enroling of one of the bogus schools. This individual sent me a message on October 23rd, which said: ” “am not sure whether you remember me. I think that the education scammers are back. Had phone calls on different occasions. If you reply to this mail, can supply you with the numbers.”

 On October 31st, I received from this person an email he/she received:

pcu-letterParamount California University is one of the Axact bogus schools and I had thought the raids in Pakistan shut them down along with 300+ others sites. I went to the website to see if they and another Axact bogus school, Nixon University were still operating. Here is what I found:

pcu-front-pagepcu-accreditation

nixon-u-uae-chapter

What can we do about these companies who by their actions are hurting education throughout the GCC, doing harm to companies who hire these grads and hurting the reputation of legitimate universities worldwide who have quality online degrees? I recommend the federal agencies in the GCC to consider the following actions:

  1. Take a very aggressive stand in letting the public know these companies are still operating
  2. The appropriate government agencies in the GCC coordinate a plan of action to turn off and shut down such diploma mills
  3. Dismiss or not hire any person who shows on their Cv or public record they have a degree from an identified bogus school
  4. Block the Internet addresses of any identified bogus school

While the Axact scandal is not as critical as war/peace, and reducing poverty, the education of the nation’s citizens is vital for business and society. Governments spend anywhere from 15-25% of their GNP to provide legitimate education to its citizens. I had hoped in 2015 the Pakistan raid on Axact and the arrest of the CEO would put this group and others like them out of business. Unfortunately the alleged leader is now free and it appears the justice system failed in getting a conviction. It now up to other governments worldwide to take action.