London, Jan. 16 (TNS): A so-called “diploma mill” operating out of Axact, a call centre in Pakistan, sold thousands of fake degrees to British nationals, a new investigation revealed on Tuesday by British media.
Axact sold more than 3,000 qualifications in Britain between 2013 and 2014, including PhDs and doctorates, the BBC investigation found.
The company reportedly invented hundreds of universities online and used fake news stories in an attempt to dupe employers who might check the references on applicants’ CVs.
Axact, which claims to be the “world’s largest IT company” and has invented names such as Brooklyn Park University and Nixon University, is run by agents from a call centre in Karachi.
‘Degrees of Deception’, to be aired as part of BBC Radio 4’s ‘File on Four’ programme, claims that clinical staff employed by the UK’s state-funded National Health Service (NHS) and nurses were among thousands who had acquired these fake degrees.
“While we have good processes in place to shut down such sites, the problem with fake universities is that they are often based outside the UK,” said Jane Rowley, chief executive of Higher Education Degree Datacheck (HEDD), the UK’s official body for candidate verification and university authentication.
“Pakistan, Malaysia, Romania and the Middle East are among some of the countries we have come across in investigations. As more and more employers demand degree qualifications, people are tempted by these offers. We encourage proper checks by employers so that such fake degrees are exposed because if no one buys them, these organisations would cease to exist,” she said.
Pakistan had opened an investigation into Axact in May 2015 after ‘The New York Times’ found that it had created at least 370 fake websites and employed 2,000 people.
Axact’s chief executive was acquitted of money laundering in 2016 but its vice-president, Umair Hamid, was jailed in the US last year on fraud charges.
While Axact denies all wrongdoing, the Pakistani investigation ground to a halt amid claims of government corruption.