KARACHI, Pakistan (AP) — A Pakistani judge ordered police Wednesday to hold and question the embattled CEO of a software company for a week on allegations he oversaw a global diploma mill, as broadcasters aired images of blank degrees stacked in his firm’s offices.
The judicial order marked the latest crisis for Shoaib Sheikh, the top official at Axact, a software company which a recent New York Times report accused of making millions of dollars selling fake high school diplomas and university degrees. While Axact has denied the allegations and threatened legal action against the Times, Pakistani investigators said they found hundreds of thousands of fake degrees during a raid Wednesday on the company’s offices in Karachi.
Officials also say they found fraudulent student ID cards and university accreditations for institutions that don’t exist.
“We have enough evidence to proceed,” said Shahid Hayat, the provincial director at Pakistan’s Federal Investigation Agency. “We have forensic evidence.”
Television footage showed investigators leading Sheikh away from his office in handcuffs. He later appeared before Judge Noor Mohammad, who ordered Sheikh held for seven days for police questioning on charges of fraud, forgery and cybercrime. Sheikh will appear again before the judge on June 4.
Sheikh’s lawyer, Shaukat Hayat, said his client’s family would be permitted to see him while he remains in custody. Hayat, who is not related to the FIA provincial director, previously has said his client denies the allegations against him. Sheikh, in an earlier video message, denied the charges.
The arrest marks a downfall for Sheikh and Axact, which planned to launch a new television channel in Pakistan. The software company has described the case against it as a conspiracy by rival media groups.
Investigators say others were as well in the raid. It was not immediately known how many people were arrested in all.
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