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Court sentences pirate to five years

Checkmate for German software pirate

Apparently Ralph Blasek didn't do a good job at plotting his next few moves. The professional chess player and presumed leader of Europe's largest known software counterfeiting network, was sentenced yesterday by a German judge with five and a half years in prison without probation.

"This is checkmate to you, Blasek. The court wants to see your king fall," the judge said, according to sources close to the case who were in the courtroom during sentencing.

The defendant was convicted of fraud for selling illegal software to customers but the case centered on the tampering of Microsoft's education software.

According to Microsoft, Blasek obtained legitimate Microsoft software sold to schools and educational facilities at a discounted rate and then resold it as full versions to non-educational customers for well over the discounted price.

He manipulated the software and its packaging to create counterfeit versions and sell the licences, a Microsoft representative says.

Microsoft suffered €4.5 million in damages due to Blasek's activities, the court spokesperson says.

Blasek is also believed to have run a sophisticated international software counterfeiting ring involving hundreds of front companies with bank accounts established around the world.

The organisation was supposedly set up in the early 1990s and generated over €82 million worth of counterfeit software in just the last few years of operation, according to sources close to the case.

The organisation is even thought to have manufactured counterfeit software using a German-based CD manufacturing plant that normally produces music CDs for independent artists.

His sentencing yesterday followed an investigation by Germany's Bundeskriminalamt, the equivalent of the CIA and local police.

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