Pakistani authorities are carrying out a full investigation on a firm accused of running a global fake degree factory. The Federal Investigation Agency on Tuesday (May 22) raided the offices of software company Axact at several locations across the country.
But its owner has defended his firm, saying the accusations were aimed at crippling his expanding business empire. Axact is based in the port city of Karachi and touts itself as the country’s largest software exporter. The firm’s media arm Bol is set to start a high profile TV news channel in the country.
The New York Times (NYT) article had accused it of running a global fake degree factory linked to at least 370 bogus educational institutes online. But its CEO said the allegations were planted by domestic media rivals to harm his business.
“The rival TV owners’ agenda is very clear – because Bol is being funded by Axact, so Axact should be crippled,” said Shoaib Ahmed Sheikh, Chairman and CEO of Axact. “The NYT reporter who wrote this story was kicked out by Pakistan’s government – the burden of proof is on him. We are going to file a case against him and he has to prove these allegations.”
A message on the firm’s webpage had also described the NYT story as “baseless, substandard, maligning, defamatory, and based on false accusations”. The country’s Federal Investigation Agency is taking the lead in investigating the case. It said some of the company’s employees have been detained for questioning but no one has been formally arrested.
EXHAUSTIVE INVESTIGATIONS ONGOING
“We are going to interview some people and the put the equipment we’ve seized through a forensic examination and we will conduct an inquiry,” said Tahir Tanvir, Deputy Director of Pakistan’s Federal Investigation Agency. “If we find something, we will take legal action.”
But lawyers said these allegations need to be investigated as they would be a crime under Pakistan’s Electronic Transaction Ordinance.
“The New York Times is a very prestigious newspaper, they don’t go for this kind of scandalous information and they know what defamation law is,” said Sahibzada Ahmed Raza Kasuri, Senior Advocate, Supreme Court of Pakistan. “They can be sued for degrading and lowering somebody’s prestige in the society.”
Pakistan’s Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan has vowed to fully investigate the matter as it could tarnish the good image of the country. “The truth is that I knew of the New York Times report and ordered an inquiry,” he said. “Forty-two servers have been confiscated and Axact’s offices have been sealed.”
Authorities say the probe could take several weeks or months as investigators comb through the computers of the firm to collect evidence.