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Acquittal pleas of Axact chief, others dismissed

KARACHI: A district and sessions court on Tuesday dismissed the acquittal plea of Axact chief executive officer Shoaib Shaikh and 13 co-accused in the fake degrees case.

The court observed that the testimonies of witnesses for prosecution were being recorded. A judgement in the case would be pronounced only after the completion of the trial, it said.

All the accused persons had been earlier granted bail by the Sindh High Court in the sum of Rs500,000.

The Axact scandal surfaced in May 2015 when the New York Times published a report stating that the company had sold fake diplomas and degrees online through hundreds of fictitious schools, making “tens of millions of dollars annually”.

Subsequently, the offices of Axact were sealed, its CEO and key officials were arrested and a probe was launched on the basis of the allegations levelled by the NYT report.

On May 27, 2015, the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) had detained scores of Axact employees, including the executive body members and the CEO, during raids in Rawalpindi and Karachi after the NYT published the news story about the issuance of millions of fake degrees by Axact.

Later in June, the employees as well as the CEO of the company were remanded to judicial custody.

Dr Asim’s bail plea

The Sindh High Court on Tuesday adjourned the hearing of a bail application of Dr Asim Hussain, an ailing leader of the Pakistan Peoples Party and close aide of former president Asif Zardari, and four others on the request of the National Accountability Bureau.

A two-judge bench comprising Justices Abdul Maalik Gaddi and Mohammad Saleem Jessar fixed Dec 26 for the next hearing after the NAB prosecutor pointed out that the investigation officer of the case was not present in the court to assist him.

Appearing on behalf of former petroleum minister Dr Asim Hussain, Barrister Latif Khosa forwarded his arguments before the bench on medical grounds. He also explained the medical history of his client with reference to the reports of medical boards.

In response to the court’s query, the counsel said three of the five accused of the reference had acquired bail before arrest, while the remaining two, including his client, were under custody.

He submitted that the former minister had been under custody for the past one and a half years. He was critically ill and shifted to the ICU of the NICVD on Monday evening due to a sudden heart ailment, the counsel said.

He added his client would go for disc surgery after being granted bail by the court.

Meanwhile, the accountability court adjourned the hearing of reference against Dr Asim till Dec 24, as he could not be brought before the court due to his health condition. Dr Asim, who was shifted to the NICVD on Monday due to complaints of chest pain, sweating and irregular heartbeat, and five others were charged with corruption of Rs462 billion by an accountability court on Friday.

The five others who face charges in the corruption reference are: former petroleum secretary Mohammad Ejaz Chaudhry, Abdul Hameed, the administrator of Ziauddin Medical Centre, Dubai; Safdar Husain, a former chief executive officer of the Karachi Dock Labour Board (KDLB); and former directors of the Karachi Development Authority (KDA) Syed Athar Hussain and Masood Haider Jaffri all of whom have been charged with “facilitating” Dr Asim.

Dr Asim is accused of misusing his authority for getting plots allotted fraudulently and encroaching upon state land for expansion of Dr Ziauddin Hospital/Trust, illegal gains, kickbacks and money laundering.

The reference alleged that the former petroleum minister had deprived the state of Rs462.5bn from 2010 to 2013 — Rs450bn through the fertiliser scam, Rs9.5bn through land fraud and Rs3bn through money laundering. Dr Asim has also been facing another Rs17.3bn corruption reference and charges of allegedly treating and harbouring terrorists.

courtesy : dawn news

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