The BBC World Service, in an hour-long exposé on its radio platform, has prompted renewed debate about Pakistan-based I.T. company Axact, which is allegedly still selling fake degrees across the world, including in the U.K. Last year, in April, a top executive of the company, Umair Hamid, had pleaded guilty in a U.S. court “in connection with a $140 million fake degree scandal.”
Initially broken by the New York Times, Axact’s fake-degree scandal nearly scuppered its foray into broadcast media through its Bol TV channel. However, despite much public debate and haranguing, nothing much came of the case. While Axact chief Shoaib Sheikh was arrested, he was soon acquitted by a judge on the basis of “bad prosecution”—with the same judge subsequently admitting he had accepted a Rs. 5,000,000 bribe to rule in the CEO’s favor.
According to the BBC, even this token prosecution wasn’t enough to stop Axact’s activities. Its latest report claims the company is still selling fake degrees in the U.K. and the Middle East, including Saudi Arabia. On average, according to the report, each degree bags Axact $300,000—often through the use of blackmail. Company employees, posing as senior government officials, such as current U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, even call up victims and persuade them to cough up more money to avoid arrest for possessing a false degree.
Bol TV, meanwhile, has continued broadcasting anti-government agitprop, intensifying the government-establishment war of words going on in Pakistan. The channel would have shut down had the Axact case not collapsed after the prosecutors ran away. To this day, the channel’s provenance remains somewhat mysterious, with the information vacuum provoking many conspiracy theories. In 2013, India’s Hindustan Times alleged Dawood Ibrahim, in collaboration with the ISI, was financing Bol TV. With the money Axact is reportedly pulling in from fake degrees, its unlikely it needs their support.