Axact CEO Shoaib Shaikh, gets 7-year jail term in fake degrees case

By Dean Hoke, Managing Partner Edu Alliance Group. and member of the Board of Directors of the United States Distance Learning Association.

As many of know for the past 3 ½ years Edu Alliance has been reporting via the traditional news outlets, blogs, and social media on the proliferation of fake degrees and diploma mills and how the Arab world has been targeted. We at Edu Alliance in conjunction with Al Fanar in 2015 were involved in exposing telemarketing degree scams in the GCC. Later that year, the New York Times did a major investigative piece on Axact who was operating over 300 non-existent universities.

The New York Times articles exposed the bogus degree business led by Axact CEO Shoaib Shaikh, which had generated hundreds of millions of dollars by selling bogus university and high school degrees worldwide. In the GCC alone, ten’s of thousands of people both expats and nationals purchased these worthless degrees. Twenty-three people including Mr. Shoaib were convicted and sentenced to seven years of imprisonment plus a fine of Rs500,000.

It is important to note that in spite of these convictions there are still a number of  groups who are telemarketing in the GCC offering bogus degrees or from schools which are not recognized by any of the education Ministry’s in the region which means they have no value.  Remember to be very cautious if you get a call or see an advertisement offering a degree for very low tuition and little if any work. Make sure to check with your local or federal government entity website to determine if it is an institution recognized by the proper accreditation agency. Otherwise you are wasting your money,  possibly putting yourself in a position to be fired by your employer or worse, blackmailed by the seller of the degree. Remember, if it seems to good to be true then it likely is.  

To read the news reports on the conviction of Shoaib Shaikh and the other go to these news links:

THE EXPRESS TRIBUNE

GEO NEWS

DAWN

THE NEWS INTERNATIONAL


cropped-edu-alliance-logo-square1.jpgEdu Alliance is a higher education consultancy firm with offices in the United States and the United Arab Emirates. The founders and its advisory members have assisted higher education institutions on a variety of projects, and many have held senior positions in higher education in the United States and internationally.

Our specific mission is to assist universities, colleges and educational institutions to develop capacity and enhance their effectiveness.

Thank you to Advisory Council member Ken Salomon for making Edu Alliance aware of the hearing.

 

‘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.