Copies of some fake academic certificates issued to UAE residents. Picture for illustrative purposes only. Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News Archives

Dubai: An Emirati, who unknowingly paid a quarter of a million dirhams for a fake online degree, has urged authorities to take action.

A.H, who requested not to reveal his full name, found out that his Dh250,000 online degree was fake after the scandal of Pakistani IT Company, Axact, surfaced in the news in May.

The company was exposed for allegedly operating hundreds of fake online universities from its headquarters in Pakistan, making hundreds of millions of dollars online selling fake degrees to people around the world.

Pakistan’s Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) raided the company’s headquarters in Karachi and arrested Shoaib Shaikh, CEO and owner of Axact.

Gulf News interviewed Yasir Jamshaid, the whistle-blower who exposed Axact’s entire operation, and he said these universities particularly targeted GCC residents, many of whom were from the UAE.

After the scandal surfaced, the victim of the scam A.H. said all the professors and recruiters of the university stopped answering his calls.

“The university seemed so legitimate; they even sent me a graduation gown and cap and told me they will be having a graduation ceremony in Atlantis, Dubai! I want to share my story so that other residents from here don’t make the same mistake.”

A.H. applied for a PhD at Grant Town University and Brooklyn Park University after an ad appeared on his Facebook page. He visited the website and contacted the ‘professors’, who said he can gain his degree solely on his past experience.

“They are targeting the UAE specifically by featuring testaments of Arab students and carrying logos of the UAE Ministry of Higher Education and Expo 2020. The alleged professors I spoke to were also very knowledgeable about the UAE’s higher education system and knew I had to provide the ministry with an equivalency,” he said.

The cost of each degree was around $4,500 (Dh16,515). However A.H.’s bill slowly accumulated to Dh250,000 after the universities kept on asking for additional fees for attestation and other services over a period of two years.

“I kept on paying them and I did not doubt them because the couriers, invoices and calls all came from the US numbers. They told me that I would receive a degree based on my experience because it was a part time American programme,” he said.

A.H. said the university used to withdraw money from his credit card but later asked him to make the payments through Western Union by giving the money to a man called Waleed in Kuwait.

A.H. said he contacted Waleed after finding out about the scandal and Waleed said he no longer works with the university.

University of Atlanta

“Towards the end, they told me that they will be transferring all my credits to the University of Atlanta. They said the university has offices in Emirates Towers’ 41st floor and they will be organising a graduation ceremony at Atlantis.”

Gulf News contacted Emirates Towers offices who said they don’t have any office under the university’s name.

A.H. said the university also took part in the Gulf Education & Training Exhibition (Getex) in Dubai and has pictures of the event, showing a prominent Emirati figure at their stand in the exhibition. They would boast about having the prominent figure at their stand to convince A.H. that the university was a credible one.

“After two years, I finally got my degree, which arrived from a USA courier only to find out that it was fake. The UAE authority needs to act on this because they are targeting Arabs, especially those in the UAE.”

He said the degree he received had the stamp of the UAE embassy in Australia.

A.H. called on authorities to act, believing that these universities are not only stealing money from people but also taking their personal information as they ask for passport copies, which can be used in a wrong way.

The Axact firm also has an office in Dubai, Axact FZ –LLC in Media City, which Gulf News visited and found to be still registered.

Documents obtained by Gulf News show that of the 600,000 Axact shares, one is held by Shoaib Shaikh and another by his wife, Ayesha, while the remaining 599,998 shares are owned by Axact FZ LLC in Dubai.