Microsoft as we say Novartis

In 2016, Yasser Elabd noticed a $ 40.000 payment to a customer in Africa. But something was wrong. The payment came from the Microsoft Business Investment Fund - money intended for closing deals and opening new business lines.

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But the customer mentioned in the request was not a customer, at least not according to the company's internal customer list. He was a former Microsoft employee who was fired due to poor performance and had left the company very recently.

It was suspicious, and it looked more like a bribe than a proper business payment. Elabd pushed to find out more details, but the other managers became impatient. Eventually, the payment stopped, and few seemed to be interested in digging deeper.

In the two years that followed, Elabd reports that he did everything in his power to eliminate these payments (under the table) - a struggle that made him finger-pointing among his colleagues and ultimately cost him his job.

Looking back today, he believes that Microsoft was not interested in stopping these payments.

Elabd made public his experiences in an essay published Friday by the Lioness whistleblower platform, alleging widespread bribery through Microsoft's foreign contract company.

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Elabd estimates that more than $ 200 million is spent each year on bribes and kickbacks, often in countries such as Ghana, Nigeria, Zimbabwe, Qatar and Saudi Arabia. For the areas where he worked, he believes that more than half of the sellers and managers were involved in such bribes. If true, it is the first clear allegation of ongoing corruption in international technology conventions.

As director of emerging markets for the Middle East and Africa, Elabd observed many different versions of the same problem.

Sometimes, as in the case of Africa, there were suspicious requests from the venture capital fund.

In another case, he saw a contractor for the Saudi Interior Ministry receive a $ 13 million discount on software he bought for the ministry - but the discount never reached the end customer.

In another case, the Qatari Ministry of Education paid $ 9,5 million a year for Office and Windows licenses that were never installed. One way or another, the money was shared between the government, the subcontractor and any Microsoft employees involved in the deal.

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This type of corporate bribery is a widespread problem internationally, especially in countries where the government and bureaucrats in general view bribery as part of the cost of doing business.

The World Economic Forum estimates that more than $ 1 trillion is lost through bribery worldwide each year. Of course, it is much more difficult to assess the scams of large companies that pay local decision-makers to secure deals.

The cost is usually borne by the taxpayers of the country.

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