Microsoft paid ‘millions’ in bribes, whistleblower claims

The digital giant has defended itself against accusations of corruption by a former manager who has become a whistleblower.

On Friday, March 25, Microsoft was accused of being directly linked to a sordid story of massive global corruption by an American whistleblower. The case, relayed on the platform of whistleblowers Lionessconcerns “millions of dollars” paid in the form of bribes abroad.

It all starts with Microsoft’s investment fund. This structure has significant capital which is usually used to finance large contracts. But in 2016, a man named Yasser Elabd, then head of markets in Africa and the Middle East, noticed a suspicious payment of $40,000 sent by the fund to an Africa-based client.

A common thread based on suspicious payments

The signal that alerted him is the profile of the interested party; it was in fact not a client at all, although he had indeed designated to receive money usually reserved for the firm’s business partners. Even weirder: it was apparently a former employee recently fired by the digital giant for poor performance.

When Elabd escalated the information, the story took an even stranger turn. Unsatisfied with the explanations provided to him by the author of the request, he said that he contacted his direct superior, then the human resources department.

The payment in question would have been interrupted, but no one would have followed up; the matter would then have fallen completely into oblivion. “To my surprise, HR did not investigate what happened on the side of the employees behind the transaction.”, he explains in his text.

Active resistance from the hierarchy

An incongruity that pushed him to persevere in his investigation. He would then have found himself face to face with another member of management who would have opposed him with active resistance. “If one of our subsidiaries in Africa or the Middle East does something, you have to turn your head and let it be. If something happens, it is they who will pay the price, not you,” the official quoted by Elabd allegedly said.

The discomfort came to a head when he decided to write directly to Satya Nadella, the big boss of Microsoft himself. An initiative which, according to an unnamed vice-president, amounts to a “one-way trip to Microsoft’s door”.

Aware of being in the hot seat, he would have started on the trail of these sums designated as “jars of wine”. Prior to his dismissal, he allegedly traced several other suspicious maneuvers. Some were related to interlocutors in Qatar or Saudi Arabia; others were pointing to Cameroon or South Africa.

Mcirosoft denies and reaffirms its ethical commitments

Elabd also explains that these practices would be downright systemic. “This affects all levels of the company“, he says in an interview with The Verge. “All the managers know, and they’re promoting the wrong people. If you do what’s right, you won’t get promoted”, he insists.

Accusations of course rejected by Microsoft. In a comment posted by The Verge in response to Elabd’s interview, the firm defended itself through Backy Lenaburg, one of the VPs in charge of ethics and cooperation. “We are committed to doing business responsibly”, engages the latter.

We encourage everyone to report all violations of the law, our internal policies and our ethical standards.“, she says before concluding: “We have already investigated these allegations, which are several years old, and we are dealing with them. We are cooperating with government agencies to resolve any concerns”, concludes the declaration.

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