Fake degrees case: Axact CEO, wife appear in court

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KARACHI: Axact CEO Shoaib Shaikh and his wife have appeared before the additional district and sessions judge (south) after the two's production orders were issued earlier in the day owing to their no-show in the fake degrees case. 

As the hearing of the case went under way on Monday, the accused failed to appear in court despite a summons. 

Judge Sarah Junejo directed the authorities to ensure the suspects' presence and adjourned the proceedings for a brief period. 

Later, as Shaikh appeared with his wife, his security staff manhandled media persons on their way to the courtroom.

The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), which has lodged the case against Shaikh, will now present its witness in court, where the in-camera hearing is taking place. 

The chief executive and senior officials of Axact, which claims to be the "world's largest IT company" but operates hundreds of fake online universities, were arrested on charges of fraud in May 2015 after an expose` in The New York Times.

At present, of the total four cases registered against Axact, the accused have been acquitted in two — one in Islamabad and another in Karachi — while one is under way in Karachi and the last, in Peshawar, is yet to start.

SHC hears FIA 's appeal against suspects' acquittal  
Moreover, the Sindh High Court (SHC) has summoned Shaikh and the other accused on February 21 with regards to the FIA 's appeal against the suspects' acquittal by a lower court.

The orders came on Feb 15 as the SHC, on the Supreme Court's orders, began hearing FIA 's appeal against the acquittal of suspects in the money laundering case by a district court in August 2016.

Justice Naimatullah Phulpoto inquired why Sheikh was not present in court despite an earlier summons. Sheikh’s counsel Imdad Advocate informed the bench that his client is unwell.

Expressing displeasure, the court ordered the counsel to present his client's medical certificate in court at the next hearing and also summoned Sheikh at the next hearing on Feb 21.

The FIA has maintained in its appeal that the district court did not take into account strong pieces of evidence of money laundering against the suspects. It added that Sheikh and his aides are on bail in the fraud case against them.

On February 9, hearing the suo motu case on the Axact fake degrees scandal, the Supreme Court had ordered the high courts to wrap up the appeals against the suspects' acquittal within a matter of weeks.

During the hearing, the chief justice directed the Islamabad High Court to decide on the government's appeal against the suspects' acquittal in three weeks.

Similarly, the SHC was directed to form a two-member bench next week and decide on the appeal within 15 days.

The apex court also directed the trial court in Karachi to decide on the prosecution's plea seeking cancellation of the suspects' bail in two weeks.APP/AFP

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