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|14 March, 2019

Ministry official detained as cash-for-degrees scandal widens in Lebanon

The director-general of higher education at the Education Ministry is in a judicial investigation into allegations that a number of higher-education institutions were involved in cash-for-degrees schemes.

Image used for illustrative purpose. Large group of students sitting in the classroom and writing a test.

Image used for illustrative purpose. Large group of students sitting in the classroom and writing a test.

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BEIRUT: The director-general of higher education at the Education Ministry Ahmad al-Jammal was brought in for questioning Tuesday night for his alleged involvement in the sale of fake university degrees, a judicial source told The Daily Star. Jammal remained in detention Wednesday - the latest development in a judicial investigation into allegations that a number of higher-education institutions were involved in cash-for-degrees schemes.

The source said Jammal’s detention came after the arrest of seven executives from Sidon University College, one of the institutions involved in the case. Five of these suspects were owners of the college, and two held management roles.

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They told investigators earlier this week they had had a “financial agreement” with Jammal, in which they would pass him the names of people who had purchased fake degrees from the college. Jammal would then register those people in the ministry’s records as third-year students, according to the source.

Education Minister Akram Chehayeb approved the request to interrogate Jammal after those seven suspects were questioned, the source said, adding that former Education Minister Marwan Hamadeh never responded to a similar request.

Neither the Education Ministry nor Hamadeh could immediately be reached for comment.

In October, as the investigation was launched, the Education Ministry’s Higher Education Council decided to fine three universities for selling fake degrees.

The American University of Culture and Education and the Lebanese French University each received a warning and a fine estimated at about $45,000. The council also fined Sidon University College roughly $90,000 in addition to calling for its charter to be revoked, which has not yet happened.

Hamadeh said at the time that people were acquiring the counterfeit degrees so they could apply for state or military jobs.

In December, then-caretaker Justice Minister Salim Jreissati said he might order the prosecution of all those involved in the scandal after receiving all the available evidence from the Education Ministry.

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