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The Axact Scandal and Authentication of Diplomas

The New York Times ran a terrific investigative story about Axact. The main claim is that Axact, a Pakistani firm, ran a worldwide diploma mill scam. For what it is worth, Axact has responded to the article, though it’s response focuses mostly on supposed motives and doesn’t appear to directly rebut the claims. In any case, the following part of the story held special interest for me:

A more lucrative form of upselling involves impersonating American government officials who wheedle or bully customers into buying State Department authentication certificates signed by Secretary Kerry.

Such certificates, which help a degree to be recognized abroad, can be lawfully purchased in the United States for less than $100. But in Middle Eastern countries, Axact officials sell the documents—some of them forged, others secured under false pretenses—for thousands of dollars each.

“They would threaten the customers, telling them that their degrees would be useless if they didn’t pay up,” said a former sales agent who left Axact in 2013.

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Case of the Day: In re Barkats

The case of the day is In re Barkats (Bankr. D.D.C. 2014). In early 2014, several creditors of Pierre Philippe Barkats filed an involuntary bankruptcy petition. They served it on him by “delivery through owner and co-resident” at a home in Chevy Chase, Maryland, which Barkats’s lawyer had listed as Barkats’s address in a document filed with the District of Columbia Superior Court in an unrelated case. But the lawyer later averred that he had given the address solely as an address for receiving mail in the Superior Court action and that Barkat lived in France. After Barkat failed to answer the petition and the creditors obtained an order for relief, Barkats moved to vacate the order on the grounds that he had never been served with the petition.
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The New Handbook on the Apostille Convention

Fanny Cornette calls our attention to the new Handbook on the Apostille Convention published by the Permanent Bureau of the Hague Conference on Private International Law.

I would like to introduce the new Handbook prepared by the Permanent Bureau of The Hague Conference of Private International Law concerning the Apostille Convention.

According to the Conclusions and Recommendations of the 2009 Special Commission of the Hague Conference on Private International Law, the Permanent Bureau was encouraged to publish a practical Handbook concerning the Apostille Convention. Prior to this Handbook, the Permanent Bureau had already published two brochures.

The first one was “The ABCs of Apostilles (FAQs),” which provided practical answers to the fourteen most frequently asked questions. This brochure enabled anyone to understand how the Apostille system works.

The second brochure was a Brief Implementation Guide, which gave information to the relevant authorities of the states interested in joining the Apostille system.

The new Apostille Handbook is the latest and most complete one. Unlike the Service Convention Handbook, which must be purchased, the Apostille Handbook can be freely downloaded directly from the HCCH Website.

The Handbook is divided into six parts and five annexes:

I. About the Apostille Convention
II. Competent Authorities
III. Applicability of the Apostille Convention
IV. The Apostille process in the State of origin: request—verification—issuance—registration
V. Acceptance and rejection of Apostilles in a State of destination
VI. The e-APP

Annex I. Text of the Apostille Convention
Annex II. Flowchart on the accession procedure
Annex III. Model Apostille Request Form
Annex IV. Flowchart on requesting, issuing and registering Apostilles
Annex V. Notice for newly acceding States wishing to inform relevant authorities and the general public of the upcoming entry into force of the Convention

The Handbook will be a useful tool for all the national competent authorities but also for practitioners and researchers.

To conclude, just a few word to welcome the new Secretary General Christophe Bernasconi of The Hague Conference on Private International law, who assume the post since the 1st of July 2013. See his welcome note on the website of The Hague Conference.