Pakistan jails software firm chief in $140 million diploma scam

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KARACHI, Pakistan (Reuters) - The head of a Pakistani company convicted of bilking customers worldwide out of $140 million in online sales of bogus university degrees has been arrested weeks after being sentenced to jail, media reported on Wednesday.

Shoaib Shaikh, chief of software firm Axact, was sentenced to 20 years in prison by an Islamabad court in July but then escaped, Dawn newspaper reported.

“The Axact chief had not surrendered to the court following his conviction and managed to escape,” the paper said.

The Federal Investigation Agency, which investigated the scam, could not immediately be reached for comment.

The case was brought to light by the New York Times in 2015 that said Axact had run a global network of fake online universities that manipulated customers and generated tens of millions of dollars in estimated revenue annually by selling bogus diplomas.

“Sometimes they cater to customers who clearly understand that they are buying a shady instant degree for money. But often the agents manipulate those seeking a real education,” the newspaper said at the time.

In December 2016, another executive of Axact was charged in a U.S. federal court for his part in the “fake-diploma mill” scheme. Umair Hamid, 30, was sentenced to 21 months in prison, media said.

Editing by Nick Macfie