Shaheryar Arshad Chishty, the main person behind the purchase of BOL, has confirmed the purchased and stated that he has appointed new management and removed most of the previous people running the channel.
There are multiple ongoing legal battles involving the Chishty brothers, including a lawsuit by Ernst & Young at Cayman Island Grand Court alleging unlawful removal of board member to block voting of an EY representative appointed by Mashreq Bank. Additionally, Shaheryar Chishty is also embroiled in a lawsuit with Transcience Investments Ltd., incorporated in BVI, whereby he is accused of breaching duties and conducting in a manner that is oppressive, unfairly discriminatory and/or unfairly prejudicial. Furthermore, there are several lawsuits Chishty is facing from Aljomaih Group of Saudi Arabia and NIG Group of Kuwait pertaining to Karachi Electric. A look into his previous activities will also reveal his defaults with World Bank / IFC.
BOL’s founder and owner Shoaib Sheikh and Chishty’s counterpart in this transaction is on the wanted list of the USA, UK, Europe, and Middle Eastern countries and he has not set a foot out of Pakistan after 2016 when BOL’s scandal of selling fake degrees, running money-laundering, and wire fraud operations through its Axact arm was exposed by the New York Times (NYT) and other western papers followed by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). He faces charges of criminality including money-laundering, false representation, and wire fraud in the USA.
Shaheryar Arshad Chishty – who owns British Virgin Islands (BVI) registered AsiaPak Investment and Sage Ventures Groups Limited – took over the BOL TV which had fallen on the wrong side of Pakistan military after Imran Khan’s removal from power in April 2022, after initially being launched by Pakistan Army’s intelligence wing the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) in 2014 when it started hiring Pakistan’s top TV anchors for BOL TV under the banner of parent company Axact by offering these anchors tens of millions per months.
Allegations started surfacing immediately that the then ISI chief General (retired) Zaheer-ul-Islam was personally calling big name anchors to join BOL TV and that the channel was going to be the mouthpiece of Pakistani military to editorially take on “enemies of Pakistan” which also included Pakistani who were liberal, critical and questioned military’s role in politics.
As BOL was about to go on air, the New York Times award-winning Pakistan correspondent Declan Walsh published a huge story exposing that the whole BOL and Axact operation was based on criminal proceeds, earned through fraudulent and criminal sale of porn and fake degrees to the customers in the USA, UK, Europe and Middle Eastern countries.
The first story that rocked Pakistan was published in the NYT by Declan Walsh was on May 17, 2015 “Fake Diplomas, Real Cash: Pakistani Company Axact Reaps Millions; followed by “Axact, Fake Diploma Company, Threatens Pakistani Bloggers Who Laugh at Its Expense” on May 18, 2015; “Pakistani Investigators Raid Offices of Axact, Fake Diploma Company” by Saba Imtiaz and Declan Walsh on May 19, 2015; “Big Money, Phony Diplomas: Reporter’s Notebook” by Declan Walsh on May 20, 2015 and a hard-hitting New York Times editorial “A Rising Tide of Bogus Degrees” on May 20, 2015.
The NYT coverage attracted worldwide interest due to the nature of serious criminal conduct. On May 22, 2015, Declan Walsh reported for NYT that “Pakistan Widens Inquiry Into Fake Diplomas”; “Pakistani Journalists Resign to Cut Ties to Axact, a Fake Diploma Company” by Saba Imtiaz in NYT on May May 23, 2015” and “Axact Chief Executive Arrested in Pakistan Over Fake Diplomas Scandal” by Saba Imtiaz and Declan Walsh on May 27, 2015. Shoaib Sheikh was arrested by Pakistan’s Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) only after the US law enforcement told Pakistan that its citizens had been cheated by Shoaib Sheikh through Axact and he must be investigated. What happened to Shoaib Sheikh and how he was protected by the Pakistan military is another story.
Who are Shaheryar Arshad Chishty and Sameer Arshad Chishty and why they have bought such a suspect company raises more questions as to who is behind these brothers and why the brothers need to control a media narrative outlet if they have no hidden agenda, especially when most businessmen in Pakistan refused to do this deal when approached to buy a channel with such a murky history. It is a widely acknowledged fact that the former ISI Chiefs General Shuja Pasha and General Zaheer-ul-Islam were behind the launch of BOL TV which went on to run death campaigns against human rights activists and anyone who opposed the military.
Shaheryar Arshad Chishty recently claimed that he has become the majority shareholder of Karachi Electric (KE) – Pakistan’s major electricity supplier in its commercial hub Karachi – and soon after that he took over the channel in a murky deal with Mr. Shoaib Sheikh. His ownership of KE is being hotly disputed in courts around the world with one newspaper reliably reporting that he only owns 5.1% thereby putting his claims into question.
Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf’s former lawmaker Captain (retired) Jamil has taken over as the CEO of BOL TV on behalf of Chishty. The channel’s former president Sami Ibrahim also confirmed on Twitter that the channel has been sold after coming under pressure from the military over its editorial position favoring the PTI party which is no more the military’s favourite and the military has felt angered that its own creation BOL and Axact started to stare into eyes of its creator who went to extraordinary lengths to protect the criminal enterprise.
To deceive potential customers, Axact had established a network of fictitious websites featuring supposed “professors” and “students” who were, in reality, paid actors. Shockingly, this organization was also linked to the pornographic industry.
Founded in 1997 in Karachi with a mere ten employees, Axact’s fraudulent activities were executed with a high degree of sophistication and an extensive operational framework. The company employed a diverse portfolio of websites and domain names, skillfully designed to replicate established universities and colleges. Notably, these deceptive websites often bore striking resemblances to reputable institutions, leveraging names reminiscent of well-established entities. Through these counterfeit online platforms, Axact offered an extensive range of academic programs. The means by which Axact attracted individuals involved a tactic of inundating their Facebook newsfeeds with advertisements promoting their counterfeit universities, many of which purported to offer “professional online courses.”
BOL’s launch in 2015 was stalled after NYT expose and the arrest of the central figure behind the company’s operations, CEO and Chairman Shoaib Shaikh, but despite initial legal ramifications, Shoaib Shaikh’s connections within influential military circles facilitated his release on bail and the subsequent launch of the TV channel.
Further investigations delved into Axact’s multifaceted illicit endeavors, led to subsequent inquiry conducted by the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA). The inquiry resulted in raids on Axact’s premises in Karachi, revealing the presence of counterfeit degrees and forged US government letterheads. A comprehensive report released in April 2016 unveiled that the scandal’s scope transcended initial estimates, with allegations asserting that Axact illicitly garnered funds from over 215,000 individuals across 197 countries. Consequently, in 2018, CEO Shoaib Shaikh and 22 co-conspirators faced significant legal consequences, receiving a 20-year prison sentence as a result of their involvement.
During his tenure within the Federal Investigation Agency, Shoaib Shaikh received VIP treatment. The agency’s prosecutor, instrumental in constructing a robust case against Shaikh, encountered threats and even an armed assault on his residence by the suspected intelligence men and it is believed that Pakistan spy agency ISI helped Mr. Shoaib Sheikh evade justice. Consequently, Zahid Jamil, the prosecutor, withdrew from the case during a pivotal juncture, leading to Shoaib Shaikh’s release on bail. It later emerged that a judge involved in the case had admitted to accepting a bribe of tens of millions of Rupees for Shaikh’s release. By the time this revelation came to light in 2017 that the judge was paid not to convict him, Shoaib Shaikh had already initiated the Bol TV network in 2016, rendering him relatively untouchable.
Moreover, in the international domain, Umair Hamid, a vice president of Axact and Shoaib Shaikh’s right-hand-man, faced legal ramifications in the United States for his involvement in the global diploma mill scheme. Hamid’s conviction involved orchestrating the sprawling diploma mill Axact that preyed on individuals worldwide. Victims were deceived into enrolling in purported educational institutions, paying upfront fees with the expectation of genuine educational experiences and degrees. In addition to serving a prison sentence, Hamid was directed to forfeit a substantial sum of $5,303,020.
Equally perplexing is the question of why Shoaib Shaikh was granted the authorization to start a television channel even after Declan Walsh’s exposé on Axact. Shoaib Shaikh hired anchors who openly supported the military, issued death sentences on Pakistan’s liberal voices. Despite refraining from running advertisements, the channel disbursed huge compensation and privileges to its personnel, coupled with the possession of cutting-edge television equipment that surpassed even the most formidable media establishments in Pakistan. The channel hired as analysts dozens of retired military officers and also hired a college going son of General Zaheer-ul-Islam to pay him heftly.
The New York Times has been non-stop in its coverage of Axact and BOL’s fraud. As BOL was preparing to go on air with help from the military, the paper published another expose of BOL on April 10, 2016 titled “Behind Fake Degrees From Pakistan, a Maze of Deceit and a Case in Peril”; “Stalled by Scandal, Pakistani Network Goes on the Air at Last” by Salman Masood on Oct. 18, 2016” and “License of Bol TV, Pakistani Network Dogged by Scandal, Is Revoked” by Salman Masood on May 3, 2017.
Also, a New Jersey court has also issued a default judgment in favor of Student Network Resources Inc, Student Network Resources LLC, and Ross Cohen, awarding approximately $690,000 in damages against Axact in May 22, 2015. This judgment stems from counterclaims filed in response to a suit by Axact against their research websites. The counterclaimants provided evidence that Axact had violated the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), the Lanham Act, and the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act. Axact’s legal counsel withdrew from the case after the counterclaims were filed in 2008. Consequently, the court ruled in favor of the default judgment, citing Axact’s failure to respond. The judgment includes $300,000 in statutory damages for DMCA violations, $350,000 in punitive damages for Lanham Act violations, $2,529.75 in damages for Consumer Fraud Act violations, and an order for Axact to cover the defendants’ legal fees, amounting to $36,720.40.
These findings are based on financial records, company registrations, sworn testimonies, communications between Pakistani and American officials, and extensive phone call recordings submitted in court. Documentation related to Axact shows ownership of additional shell companies in locations such as the British Virgin Islands, Cyprus, Dubai, and Panama.
A US court also froze the bank accounts of American shell companies associated with Axact in an effort to recover a Rs2.30 billion fine imposed in 2012. This fine was levied due to Axact’s issuance of fake degrees to 30,000 students in Michigan. The court’s actions confirm the fraudulent nature of Axact’s degrees and offshore operations.
An extensive investigation by Canada’s national broadcaster, CBC, conducted in 2017, has unveiled that numerous professionals across various fields in Canada possess counterfeit degrees from Pakistan’s IT company, Axact, with more than 800 people identified in possession of fake degrees, primarily from Axact.
A report also reveals that United States officials notified Pakistani authorities about the FBI’s identification of Axact as a “diploma mill” involved in a global network of shell companies and associates. The owner of three offshore firms, registered in Delaware, which were utilized to transfer “illicit earnings” to Pakistan, has been identified as Shoaib Sheikh.
Further investigations found that more than 3,000 fake Axact qualifications were sold to UK residents in 2013 and 2014, including master’s degrees, doctorates, and PhDs. Some of the buyers, according to the BBC’s findings, include NHS clinical staff, consultants, nurses, and medical professionals who purchased these fake degrees. While the General Medical Council (GMC) stated that employers are responsible for verifying additional qualifications, only a small percentage of UK employers conduct proper checks.
Allen Ezell, the former FBI agent who led the investigation into Pakistan’s Axact, contributes the longest and most captivating section of the book with Chapter 3 titled “Yesterday, today and tomorrow: A tour of Axact, the world’s largest diploma mill’”.
According to Ezell’s account, Axact was responsible for selling over nine million diplomas and transcripts from fictitious universities, most of which falsely claimed to be “American.” These deceitful institutions bore names like “University of Atlanta,” “Almeda University,” “Belford University” (which evolved from the equally fictitious “Belford High School,” offering transcripts and high school diplomas), and “Gatesville University.”
The irony is palpable: a television network affiliated with an IT company entangled in the dubious dealings of pornography and counterfeit degrees continues to operate. By selling his network to Chishty brothers, Shoaib Sheikh is cleaning his hands with new money being paid for his illicit activities and questions why Chishtys would buy such a network and the source of their funds and the names of their backers. Perhaps the original institutions behind BOL are attempting to relaunch it with a different face in the hope that by doing so, its murky and criminal past can be forgotten. Maybe this is a mechanism to put a new narrative spinner into Pakistan’s byzantine methods ahead of new national elections while allowing Shaheryar Arshad Chishty and Sameer Arshad Chishty a free hand to justify their own business tactics.