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Tuesday Feb 13 2018

IHC hears FIA plea against acquittal of Axact suspects

Axact officials are facing a total of four cases, of which they have been acquitted in two. Photo: File 

ISLAMABAD: The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) pleaded before the Islamabad High Court (IHC) today against a trial court's order acquitting all the accused in Axact fake degree case. 

Axact's counsel Raja Rizwan Abbasi and Deputy Attorney General Raja Khalid Mahmood presented arguments before a two-member bench comprising Justices Athar Minallah and Miangul Hasan Aurangzeb. 

Abbasi explained before the bench that the respondents did not get any summons for today and are thus not in court. 

Meanwhile, Mahmood pleaded the bench to nullify the suspect's acquittal as the additional district and sessions court judge had accepted receiving a bribe for exonerating the accused.

The hearing was then adjourned until Feb 22 after the court sought a response on the current status of the judge. 

In October 2016, the additional district and sessions court hearing the case against the company in Islamabad had acquitted the accused for lack of evidence. 

SC orders expedited hearings 

Hearing the suo motu notice of the Axact scandal on February 9, the Supreme Court had ordered the Islamabad and Sindh high courts to wrap up the appeals against the suspects' acquittal within weeks.

During the hearing, DG FIA Bashir Memon had informed the bench that the accused were exonerated in the fraud case in Islamabad, the appeal of which is pending in the IHC.

The IHC registrar informed the bench that the appeal has been fixed for February 12. The chief justice then directed for the inclusion of Justice Aurangzeb in the one-member bench of Justice Minallah.

The chief justice also inquired into the identity of the Islamabad trial court judge who exonerated the suspects and observed that there were rumours he had been bribed by the accused.

The IHC registrar informed the bench of the identity of the judge — Additional District and Sessions Judge Pervez-ul-Qadir Memon.

Hearing this, the chief justice remarked that the judge appears to be a relative of the FIA DG, to which Memon said he’s embarrassed about his relations with the judge. The cour then ordered the IHC to wrap up the appeal in three weeks. 

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 the company, 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.

Similar appeal in SHC 

On Monday, the FIA filed a similar appeal in the Sindh High Court against the acquittal of Axact chief Shoaib Sheikh and other accused by a district court in the money laundering case against them.

The two-member SHC bench issued a notice to the Axact chairman, its chief executive officer, and FIA to appear before it on February 15.

Moreover, the court also summoned the record of the case proceedings from the district and sessions court that acquitted the accused.

The FIA maintained in its petition 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. The Supreme Court, on Feb 9, had directed the SHC to wrap up the case within three weeks. 


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