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Microsoft Denies Paying Nigerians $400K To Ditch Linux 148

Posted by kdawson
from the no-419-jokes-please dept.
Da Massive writes "Microsoft has denied paying a Nigerian contractor $400,000 in a bid to retard Linux's movement into the government sector. Media reports alleged that Microsoft had proposed paying that sum to a government contractor under a joint marketing agreement last year, in order to persuade the contractor to replace Linux OS with Windows on thousands of school laptops. Although a joint marketing agreement was drafted to document the best practices for using technology in education, it was never executed, said a Microsoft regional manager for Africa. It became clear, he added, that one customer wanted a Linux OS."
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Microsoft Denies Paying Nigerians $400K To Ditch Linux

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  • by plover (150551) * on Tuesday November 11, 2008 @07:54PM (#25727741) Homepage Journal

    REQUEST FOR URGENT BUSINESS RELATIONSHIP

    Hello Partner,

    My name is Thomas Hansen and I am a regional manager for Microsoft West, a prominent software company that does business with the Government of Nigeria. In strictest confidence I am writing to you about the matter of a great magnitude of money.

    Last year, my company was involved in negotiations with your government in the drawing up of a joint marketing agreement for business. During the last military regime of Nigeria, some government officials set up a fund and awarded themselves contracts for the purchase of software. The present civilian government has set up a contract review panel, and has identified ours as one that can be replaced with no cost to your government. Without further review, these contracts could amount to USD$40,000,000 (forty million U.S. dollars) or more.

    I am authorized to offer you 1% of the value of these contracts, USD$400,000, in exchange for the erasure of the competing offer. Please note this transaction is 100% safe and legal. I will commence the transferring of the funds within 72 business hours upon receipt of your bank account number. Please fax your account and driver's license to 1-419-419-4190 to continue with this transaction.

    I am looking forward to doing business with you and solicit your confidential reply to this transaction.

    Faithfully yours,
    Thomas Hansen

    • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Oh, mod parent funny... +5

    • Your post advocates a

      ( ) technical ( ) legislative (X) spam-based ( ) vigilante

      approach to fighting Micorsoft. Your idea will not work. Here is why it won't work.
      (One or more of the following may apply to your particular idea, and it may
      have other flaws which used to vary from sovereign nation to sovereign nation before a bad UN law was passed.)

      (X) Nigerians can easily use it to harvest dollars
      ( ) Mailing lists and other legitimate email uses would be affected
      (X) No one will be able to find the guy or collect the money
      ( ) It is defenseless against brute force attacks
      (X) It will stop Microsoft for two weeks and then we'll be stuck with it
      ( ) Users of email will not put up with it
      (X) Microsoft will not put up with it
      ( ) The police will not put up with it
      (X) Requires too much cooperation from Spammers
      ( ) Requires immediate total cooperation from everybody at once
      (X) Microsoft cannot afford to lose business or alienate potential
      employers
      ( ) Spammers don't care about invalid addresses in their lists
      (X) Anyone could anonymously destroy Microsoft's career or business

      Specifically, your plan fails to account for

      ( ) Laws expressly prohibiting it
      ( ) Lack of centrally controlling authority for email
      ( ) Open relays in foreign countries
      ( ) Ease of searching tiny alphanumeric address space of all email addresses
      (X) Asshats
      (X) Jurisdictional problems
      ( ) Unpopularity of weird new taxes
      (X) Nigerian reluctance to accept weird new forms of money
      ( ) Huge existing software investment in SMTP
      ( ) Susceptibility of protocols other than SMTP to attack
      ( ) Willingness of users to install OS patches received by email
      ( ) Armies of worm riddled broadband-connected Windows boxes
      ( ) Eternal arms race involved in all filtering approaches
      (X) Extreme profitability of Microsoft
      ( ) Joe jobs and/or identity theft
      (X) Technically illiterate politicians
      (X) Extreme stupidity on the part of people who do business with spammers
      (X) Dishonesty on the part of spammers themselves
      ( ) Bandwidth costs that are unaffected by client filtering
      ( ) Outlook

      and the following philosophical objections may also apply:

      (X) Ideas similar to yours are easy to come up with, yet none have ever
      been shown practical
      ( ) Any scheme based on opt-out is unacceptable
      ( ) SMTP headers should not be the subject of legislation
      ( ) Blacklists suck
      ( ) Whitelists suck
      ( ) We should be able to talk about Viagra without being censored
      ( ) Countermeasures should not involve wire fraud or credit card fraud
      ( ) Countermeasures should not involve sabotage of public networks
      ( ) Countermeasures must work if phased in gradually
      ( ) Sending email should be free
      ( ) Why should we have to trust you and your servers?
      ( ) Incompatiblity with open source or open source licenses
      ( ) Feel-good measures do nothing to solve the problem
      ( ) Temporary/one-time email addresses are cumbersome
      ( ) I don't want the government reading my email
      (X) Killing them that way is not slow and painful enough

      Furthermore, this is what I think about you:

      (X) Sorry dude, but I don't think it would work.
      ( ) This is a stupid idea, and you're a stupid person for suggesting it.
      ( ) Nice try, assh0le! I'm going to find out where you live and burn your
      house down!

      • Oops (Score:5, Funny)

        by jonaskoelker (922170) <jonaskoelker&gnu,org> on Tuesday November 11, 2008 @08:04PM (#25727843) Homepage

        I know self-replies are bad form. I also know that I wrote Microsoft some places where 'Linux' would've been more appropriate. Sorry for the confusion.

        This post advocates a

        (X) common sense ( ) spell-checker ( ) semantic verifier

        -based approach to reading my above post.

        • This post advocates a (X) common sense ( ) spell-checker ( ) semantic verifier -based approach to reading my above post.

          Your idea will not work. Here is why it won't work.

          (X) Slashdotters will not put up with it.
          (X) Requires too much cooperation from Slashdotters

          Specifically, your plan fails to account for

          (X) Asshats
          (X) Slashdotter reluctance to accept weird new forms of thinking

          Furthermore, this is what I think about you:

          (X) Sorry dude, but I don't think it would work.

      • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

        by akentanaka (1366327)
        you guys have so much time on your hands. Very nice exchange!
    • by brentonboy (1067468) on Tuesday November 11, 2008 @08:34PM (#25728117) Homepage Journal
      Obviously a fake. If it were a real Nigerian mail fraud letter, it would have more spelling errors and confusing punctuation.
    • by rampant mac (561036) on Tuesday November 11, 2008 @09:06PM (#25728449)

      Actually, it wouldn't surprise me to see...

      REQUEST FOR URGENT BUSINESS RELATIONSHIP

      Hello Partner,

      DEVELOPERS, DEVELOPERS, DEVELOPERS, DEVELOPERS!

      Sincerely,

      Steve Ballmer

    • by mortonda (5175)

      Funny, but the grammar is too good to be a Nigerian scam...

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by jmhoule314 (921571)
      i tried fax my account number to 1-419-419-4190, but it told me the code i entered was incorrect. Here is my bank account number: 44524-44524. Please send me the money now.
    • by Bert64 (520050)

      You forgot to write out the numerical value in textual form, eg:
      USD$400,000 FOUR HUNDRED THOUSAND UNITED STATES DOLLARS

      You also didn't have enough spelling or grammar mistakes in your post...

  • by siddesu (698447) on Tuesday November 11, 2008 @08:03PM (#25727841)

    As they do in other countries (see Eastern Europe for an example), Microsoft will just pay the government officials that award the contract.

    It is a lot easier, safer (there are lawyer intermediaries, so it is impossible to catch the perpetrators) and works well, as the government has a "legitimate" reason to increase the budget, and the larger the budget, the merrier it gets.

    • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Actually...it still falls under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. Any block of money given out in this manner, if caught, means a felony charge for the parties that did it. It'd be a Club Fed stay, but it's still a felony and under the right circumstances would be prosecuted as such.

      • by siddesu (698447) on Tuesday November 11, 2008 @11:52PM (#25729583)

        Probably, but a prosecution is almost unpossible. First, the US is unlikely to investigate if there is no other interested party in the US to stink. Second, as I pointed out, evidence is hard to come by. The scheme roughly works like this

        a) you meet someone, who isn't related in any "official way"
        b) you two agree about the setup
        c) a "public tender" is constructed by the government so that other participant are excluded
        d) a chain of companies may be set up, usually offshore, so that it is harder to track where the money goes (and there is more than 1 jurisdiction involved)
        e) if anything at all comes to light, the local employees are dumped. I'd probably guess they aren't prosecutable under the act you quote.

        If MS really made an offer, probably the partner had very good connections to someone and was very "stubborn" on the linux thing. That, or the Nigerian M$ manager really roots for linux.

        • by the_womble (580291) on Wednesday November 12, 2008 @02:43AM (#25730677) Homepage Journal
          Another trick is to overpay someone to whom you make a legitimate payment (a local partner, for example) on the tacit understanding that they will negotiate and pay whatever bribes are necessary.

          That is often why people say things like "we entered into a joint venture with local partner who can supply local knowledge". It means they have the right contacts and will take the blame in the unlikely event that the bribe comes to light.

          Does the US government actually bother to prosecute these cases? Britain has similar laws but government is not really bothered about enforcing them, and has even pressurised the police into dropping investigations (the BAE Saudi bribes case last year).

    • I don't know about US law, but it is an offence in Australia to bribe a foreign official, even if the bribery took place entirely overseas.

      That's why you'd use a contractor - paid very handsomely, with the unstated assumption that much of the money would be used to grease palms. It also explains why JVs are so popular in places like Indonesia where one cannot do business without bribery.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    No wonder they were skeptical, a 400k cashier's check...

  • Retarded (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Microsoft...denied paying a Nigerian contractor $400,000 in a bid to retard Linux's movement into the government sector.

    What could be more retarded than a government sector using windows? (grammar nazis, let it slide...)

  • Holy Shit (Score:3, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 11, 2008 @08:14PM (#25727955)

    Nigerians have computers?

    • by mrsteveman1 (1010381) on Tuesday November 11, 2008 @09:06PM (#25728447)

      They actually have modified See n' Say units, you pull the string and they spit out a new scam form letter ready to go. Its more of an instructional tool at this point:

      "The NIGERIAN says......."

      • 419 no be thief, its just a game
        Everybody dey play

        419 is just a game,
        you are the loser I am the winner
        I go chop your dollar, I go take your money disappear.

    • by Technician (215283) on Tuesday November 11, 2008 @09:30PM (#25728631)

      Nigerians have computers?

      They have computers. I get email from them about once a week for assistance with some financial transaction or other. What they lack is good banks. The checks they send seem to always have problems. I now insist they send money using Western Union from now on.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Lordnerdzrool (884216)

        What they lack is good banks.

        Holy crap! You mean I've been living in Nigeria this whole blasted time! I've been had! No more of these free meals for my family every last Thursday in November.

  • by omar.sahal (687649) on Tuesday November 11, 2008 @08:15PM (#25727957) Homepage Journal
    Dear Mr Ballmer
    Good day and compliments. Please allow me to introduce myself. My name is Dr. (Mrs.) Mariam Abacha. I can tell by the way jump about you are very intelligent man. In order secure the windows market in Africa you know what to do.
    Your faithfully,
    Dr (Mrs.) Mariam Abacha (M.O.N)
  • From TFA: "From our standpoint, those governments, and indeed every customer, should always decide which software solutions meet their needs most appropriately..." - attributed to Thomas Hansen, regional manager for Microsoft West, East and Central Africa.

    Isn't it obvious that customers should decide what to get? Why do MS need to convince us they believe that? Who else would be deciding what customers bought Mr Hansen?
    • Yes, it is quite obvious, but apparently people don't think that Microsoft understands it. Thus, as is also quite obvious, MS is stating that they understand that.
      • Which shows that its all PR. Honestly, Microsoft Nigeria is just for public affairs, anti-piracy and penetration of "future markets". No one buys software licenses in Western Africa. Even Western companies residing there don't.

    • by Samah (729132)

      ...every customer, should always decide...

      By "decide", Microsoft means "with a gun at their head and a grin on their face."

  • by girlintraining (1395911) on Tuesday November 11, 2008 @08:22PM (#25728005)

    $400k to convince one government contractor seems like a lot to fork out. Most bribes, especially in third world countries, are had for less. Not that I'd put it past Microsoft to pull something underhanded like this, it's just that poor economic decisions aren't one of their hallmarks. Sorry, but I have to side with Bill on this -- it just doesn't pass the sniff test. $400k is enough money to live like a king or queen in those economic situations, and probably better than most government officials; the average per-year income in that country is just over $2k.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 11, 2008 @09:01PM (#25728395)

      the average per-year income in that country is just over $2k.

      That's only if you average in the poor people.

      I know someone personally who is teaching in Nigeria, most of the people around him are lucky to make $2k a year, while he makes around $43k.

      The have's in that country have quite a bit of cash, but they are very few, and the have-not's are the vast majority of the population... and most of them have no income at all.

      So while $400k would seem like enough to live like a king to the common person, it would put you at the bottom of the upper class for a year or less.

      • by wjsteele (255130)
        That's only if you average in the poor people.

        Well of course! An "average" takes into account ALL the people, regardless of income level. Otherwise, it wouldn't be an average income!

        Bill
      • by prelelat (201821)

        yes some countries don't have a middle class your either poor and living in a house made out of shipping crates or in a mansion down by the lake with 50 buttlers and a monical in some countries.

    • by cgenman (325138) on Tuesday November 11, 2008 @09:51PM (#25728775) Homepage

      Actually, read between the lines:

      Although a joint marketing agreement was drafted to document the best practices for using technology in education, it was never executed, said Thomas Hansen, regional manager for Microsoft West, East and Central Africa. "As such, the joint marketing agreement became irrelevant; no such marketing agreement was ever agreed to, and no money was ever spent," he said.

      You'll notice he doesn't deny attempting to pay 400k dollars to ditch Linux, he simply states that the plan to do so fell through.

    • by TubeSteak (669689) on Tuesday November 11, 2008 @10:47PM (#25729145) Journal

      Sorry, but I have to side with Bill on this -- it just doesn't pass the sniff test. $400k is enough money to live like a king or queen in those economic situations, and probably better than most government officials; the average per-year income in that country is just over $2k.

      It is estimated that Former Nigerian President Sani Abacha ('93-'98-died in office) stole from the Nigerian government between $3 and $5 billion USD. The Nigerian government managed to negotiate for the return of $2.1 billion USD by agreeing to allow his family to keep the rest. The family later returned another $1.2 billion USD, which suggests that the amount stolen was closer to $5 billion.

      The next guy was in office for a year.

      After him was General Olusegun Obasanjo ('99-'07) whose estimated theft varies widely up to $20+ billion... but nobody is really. Obasanjo also got tangled up in a sex scandal when his eldest son claimed in divorce papers that his (the son's) wife slept with his father (the President) to secure government contracts for companies she was doing business with under a fake name. And this is the President who ran on an anti-corruption platform.

      There are hopes that the current president will not be as corrupt as his predecessors, as he was one of the few governors in Nigerian politics with a clean record.

      I tell you all this just to give you an idea of the scope of corruption in Nigeria.
      $400K is pocket change compared to the money that changes hands in kleptocracies like Nigeria.

      American and European companies budget for bribes. It's just how business is done.
      In this case, Microsoft was going to stash the bribe under marketing costs.

      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by The Bungi (221687)

        Yes, I can confirm this. I am currently in the process of helping Abacha's widow, Miriam, extricate the sum of $12,000,000 from Nigeria for a $1M cut. And get this - all I had to do is wire her $2,000 for legal expenses! Bwahahahah!

        I am her special friend in god, I am.

      • Don't forget that a guy Microsoft hired from Nigeria is a relative of him. Dare Obasanjo [wikipedia.org].

        And then there is the Obeto nut job. [mysite4now.net]

    • I think you're missing the purpose of paying such a large sum - it is to allow the contractor to bribe others.

    • $400k to convince one government contractor seems like a lot to fork out.

      Ballmer's Microsoft only offers $400k? No wonder things are going downhill at Microsoft. Didn't Bill Gates claim that $640k would be enough? And that was about 20 years ago, so the equivalent would be about $4G today.

  • by tsa (15680) on Tuesday November 11, 2008 @08:24PM (#25728025) Homepage

    I had a Nigerian colleague once and he told me you get nothing done in Nigeria without paying the right people. So actually this is not news (and certainly not a story ;) :) ), but normal business practice.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      That's right. Even trying to build a house requires the bribery of several people!

      Even if it did happen, this is not Microsoft specific.

    • by jesterzog (189797) on Tuesday November 11, 2008 @11:40PM (#25729521) Homepage Journal

      I haven't been to Nigeria but it sounds similar to a variety of other places. Once people are poor enough and the government is corrupt enough, bribery becomes acceptable and the whole thing is self-fuelling.

      Jobs where bribes are likely become highly sought after. People won't get paid much in those positions because employers already know that they'll make up the rest from bribes, and people who bribe them accept it because they'd just as happily take a similar job and do the same thing if they could, since they can't do anything to change it.

      I'm not 100% sure that avoiding doing business in highly corrupt countries is the complete way to go. In some ways it seems that influence from businesses used to less corrupt environments is what might finally change things. Exactly how much a company like Microsoft should play by Nigeria's rules is a difficult question -- it's also at their own risk, because if they're not careful, another corrupt official could come and screw them over or extract more and more money from them for a random reason at any time. As long as corruption continues to exist, though, it'll always be a gamble trying to promote something like Free Software in a country like Nigeria.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by turing_m (1030530)

        Exactly how much a company like Microsoft should play by Nigeria's rules is a difficult question...

        Those are "Nigeria's rules"? That's a bit like asking how much someone like Gary Kasparov should play by the rules of FIDE.

    • by jesterzog (189797)

      I had a Nigerian colleague once and he told me you get nothing done in Nigeria without paying the right people. So actually this is not news (and certainly not a story ;) :) ), but normal business practice.

      It reminds me a lot of the service industry in places where there are heavy tipping cultures. What starts as a way for people to express gratitude for good service has often become an expectation from all sides to avoid getting crappy service. Eventually people in the service industry never get paid wel

  • by Cyko_01 (1092499) on Tuesday November 11, 2008 @08:26PM (#25728043) Homepage
    ...that they have to pay to get people to use it?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      It's probably XP, as school laptops are involved. They're not likely to be vista capable.

      • by Clandestine_Blaze (1019274) on Tuesday November 11, 2008 @09:01PM (#25728403) Journal

        It's probably XP, as school laptops are involved. They're not likely to be vista capable.

        I detect an oxymoron in this sentence, I just can't put my finger on it though...

        • Oh, come on mods, it may be a troll but it was a funny troll. Sheesh.
          • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

            by darkonc (47285)
            I think that some people were going for a +5Troll rating (first person rates as 'troll' and then everybody else rates as 'underrated', which leaves the 'troll' designation intact). Unfortunately, somebody accidently rated it as funny (probably in reaction to the parent complaint), and the spell may now be broken.

            Does anybody have a spare 'troll' or 'underrated' moderation lying about?

    • It's true what they say, Windows is the cheaper alternative.
    • by gronofer (838299)
      I too would accept $400k to switch my computer to Windows. Even after using some of the money to buy another Linux machine, there would be a tidy profit.
  • scammm (Score:2, Funny)

    by Dgawld (1251898)
    I've been patiently waiting for my royalty checks from that prince i have been sending mass amounts of money to.
  • Global controls will have to be imposed, and a world governing body will be created to enforce them. Crises, precipitate change.
  • by sparx394 (985617) on Tuesday November 11, 2008 @08:45PM (#25728251)
    He who denied it, supplied it.
  • hohum (Score:5, Informative)

    by BigBadBus (653823) on Tuesday November 11, 2008 @08:59PM (#25728369) Homepage
    I was born in Nigeria and my dad worked there for many years. He will tell you that the Government then (1971) was corrupt and would sell their own mothers for a belly full of ruin (that is, a glass of whisky). We have seen nothing since then to change our minds.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by ScrewMaster (602015) *

      I was born in Nigeria and my dad worked there for many years. He will tell you that the Government then (1971) was corrupt and would sell their own mothers for a belly full of ruin (that is, a glass of whisky). We have seen nothing since then to change our minds.

      I've never been there, but my girlfried was born and raised there. She goes back for visits to her family now and then.

      She'd agree with you.

  • by voss (52565) on Tuesday November 11, 2008 @09:00PM (#25728383)

    Microsoft could have paid $400,000 and the Nigerians could have gone ahead and used linux anyway. Bribes only work when you trust people to stay bought.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I don't think so.... Sometimes they use 3rd party a la pay pal (and no, this is no joke) to make sure both party fulfill their task according to the contract.

    • by Kjella (173770)

      Bribes only work when you trust people to stay bought.

      It's got nothing to do with trust and everything to do with future opportunities, if you're in a corrupt system and don't play ball then those on the inside want you out so they can keep taking bribes and those on the outside want you out since they're not getting the results they want. Maybe some would take a one-time payout but most probably expect to continue to be in the system and don't want to rock the boat. Straight people are as much poison to a crooked system as crooked people are to a straight sys

  • "from the no-419-jokes-please dept."
    Okay then, how about some (bad) 420 jokes then.

    Marijuana has thus been proven to be an order of magnitude more perfect that perfection...

  • We paid the same contractor $400,000 not to use Windows

    The Mac Guy

    • by mjwx (966435)
      We took the $400K from MS and the $400K from Apple and are still using Linux.

      Welcome to Nigeria, where scams are the 2nd largest export.
  • "We didn't pay them any money... we promised them money, even had a contract drawn up, but we never signed it because they bought the laptops with Windows anyway."
  • Microsoft didn't pay the Nigerians to ditch Linux, Ballmer just fell for one of the scams

  • is it just me or has slashdot been slamming microsoft harder than usual?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by HermMunster (972336)

      No, it's just you. Truthfully.

      You can't win a war without staying on the offensive. The best you can attain with that strategy is a stalemate. A loss is more likely.

      At digg.com it appears that either Microsoft has paid people to come and digg down negative comments and/or digg up positive ones. Even if you comment stating your belief or feeling (and your points are valid) you'll get dugg way down. This just started happening about the time that Microsoft announced Windows 7. I guess they understand th

  • FTA: 'Hansen emphasized that studies have shown that the Windows platform often costs the same as or less than Linux when the total cost of ownership is considered. '

    WTF? For a laptop that will be used in education? OK - Govs. and students get special price deals on M$ OS and Office etc., but I can't believe this.

    I'm aware of such comparisons on servers, (and I'm dubious about these), have never seen anything on clients. Anybody got some info?

    • Many of the studies that were done had merit, though the merit applies to that point in time. Unless we have a reevaluation of those studies on a continuous basis those studies are meaningless.

      In their day they were somewhat valid, though the argument was pretty flip-flop depending on the variables and how you chose to apply them to the study group.

      If you bought a PC with Windows you bought a ready to go unit. This is a valid point and over the long haul if little goes wrong then you are right. The total

  • "From our standpoint, those governments, and indeed every customer, should always decide which software solutions meet their needs most appropriately. We strongly believe that governments must carefully consider all costs of acquiring and using a PC, along with the benefits of widespread application availability, maintenance, and training," he said.

    Above is a quote from the article.

    The main problem with their statement is that they believe the main qualifier is "widespread application availability". With L

  • it was reported on a radio station yesterday that a Portland-area nurse administrator was on the hook, oddly enough, for about $400K, having responded to one of those Nigerian e-mails...

    Coincidence? I think not! Microsoft agents found someone to throw under the bus!

How many QA engineers does it take to screw in a lightbulb? 3: 1 to screw it in and 2 to say "I told you so" when it doesn't work.

Working...