After an 8-month trial, the four ringleaders were found guilty of conspiracy to defraud. The conspiracy is believed to be one of the largest of its kind in the United Kingdom and worth about $78 million (50 million pounds). The men face further court proceedings for potential confiscation of money they are believed to have made through the piracy ring.
Akbal Alibahai, 34, of London and Nabil Bakir, 29, of Berkshire, England, were directors of a company called PC Software. They were each sentenced to four and a half years in prison. Two accomplices, Adam Collier, 32, of Berkshire and Chiam Dias, 35, of London were each given custodial sentences of four months.
Dias operated a small computer supplies company called Wayfarer in east London and fulfilled fake invoices and laundered money from Alibahai and Bakir's software operation. Dias then sold these products to a company run by Collier, who had been a painter and decorator prior to becoming managing director of two software companies, Oracle Worldwide Trading and Lothbury.
The men were convicted of conspiring to obtain and supply huge quantities of counterfeit Microsoft software in a distribution network that covered the Far East and the United States. The focal point of the activity in the United Kingdom centered on companies in the Thames Valley that were storing and distributing counterfeit software.
"This was an organized attempt to con consumers and businesses into buying counterfeit software," Julia Phillpot, a Microsoft anti-piracy manager, said in a statement. "We are very concerned that customers have spent thousands of pounds on what they believe to be genuine Microsoft products to find they are running illegal software."
Silicon.com's Graham Hayday reported from London.