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Pakistan to seek FBI, Interpol help in fake degrees scam

May 23, 2015

Pakistan on Saturday said it has decided to ask the FBI and Interpol for assistance with a probe into a Karachi-based firm accused of running a global fake degree empire.

Pakistan this week launched an investigation against the company Axact after it was accused by the New York Times of running a network of websites for phoney universities as part of an elaborate scheme that generated tens of millions of dollars annually.

“The interior ministry is writing a letter to (the) FBI to get legal assistance… other than that we are also contacting Interpol to get some information on the universities,” Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan told reporters in capital Islamabad.

Khan said the ministry would write the letter in next two days, adding that an initial inquiry into the company would be completed in next 10 days.

Pakistan’s Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) officers swooped on the Karachi headquarters of the company on Tuesday, seizing equipment and records and expelling employees from the building.

The company’s Rawalpindi office has also been sealed and employees questioned, an official said requesting anonymity.

The raids were sparked by a NYT report that quoted former employees and analysed more than 370 websites of fake universities, accreditation bodies and other purported institutions.

According to the article, the firm had clients from the US, Britain and the United Arab Emirates who had paid sums ranging from thousands to hundreds of thousands of dollars for degrees — with some believing the universities were real and they would soon receive coursework.

In a statement Axact has not directly addressed the allegations but accused domestic media rivals of colluding with the US newspaper to plant a slanderous story in order to harm its business interests.

Dispatches from AFP concerning freedom of information, censorship and news coverage in regions where independent media is under threat.