ISLAMABAD – A court in Pakistan’s federal capital on Thursday awarded a total of 20 years imprisonment to Axact Chief Executive Officer and 24 others each in a fake degree scam case that rocked the country three years ago.

District and Session Judge Mumtaz Hussain also imposed a fine of Rs0.5 million each on the Axact CEO and 23 other employees for forging for purpose of cheating. The accused were handed down sentences under various charges, amounting to a collective punishment of 20 years each. However, since all the sentences will run concurrently, the maximum time each convict would have to spend in jail is seven years.

Sheikh, as well as the other convicts, were nominated in a First Information Report (FIR) lodged against them on June 7, 2015 under Sections 419, 420, 468, 471, 473, 109/34 of the Pakistan Penal Code and Section 4 of Anti-Money Laundering Act 2010.

The judge, however, acquitted three co-accused in the case namely retired Col Younis, retired Col Jamil and the wife of Shoaib Sheikh for want of evidence.

The trial court judge had earlier acquitted Axact CEO and other accused in the case. Additional district and sessions judge Pervaiz-ul-Qadir Memon had confessed to receiving Rs5 million for acquitting Shoaib Sheikh in the case.

Islamabad judge removed from service for taking Rs5m bribe in Axact fake degrees case

Later, the Federal Investigation Agency had filed an appeal against the acquittal of accused, which was accepted by the Islamabad High Court.

The IHC had then declared the acquittal of Sheikh and others void.

It had ordered the sessions court to against listen to the final arguments and announce a verdict in the case.

Following a news story in New York Times in May 2015, CEO Shoaib Ahmed Shaikh, managers Viqas Atique, Zeeshan Anwar, Mohammad Sabir and Zeeshan Ahmed and 14 other officials/employees of the software firm were booked for allegedly preparing and selling fake degrees, diplomas and accreditation certificates of fictitious schools/universities through a fraudulent online system and illegally minting millions of dollars.

In its report submitted to the sessions court, the FIA alleged that evidence forensically extracted from Axact’s databases between 2010 to 2015 showed that diplomas and degrees of fake universities based in the US had been issued to over 240,000 students of different countries, Dawn reported.

The company earned more than $205 million in the process.