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Police Needs to Intervene in the Sirius ‘Open Source’ Scandal

Summary: Sirius ‘Open Source’ is collapsing, but that does not mean that it can dodge accountability for crimes (e.g. money that it silently stole from its staff since at least 12 years ago)

A SCREENSHOT of the PDF from Standard Life was shared here (with sensible redaction) a few days ago. Things are belatedly progressing.

This post has taken a long time to prepare as we need to separate gossip/speculation from verified facts. Standard Life also claims to be pursuing the facts (since the 7th of March). As per their own update: “Dear Dr Schestowitz, I have attached our acknowledgement to your complaint. [...] If you’ve any questions, or problems accessing your acknowledgement, please email me at [redacted] and I’ll do all I can to help you.”

They’ve basically been looking into how on Earth the company (Sirius) was claiming to be paying into Standard Life accounts that don’t even exist!

The simplest explanation is, Sirius engaged in embezzlement. The management was contacted several times, being kindly offered the opportunity to explain what actually happened. Each and every time the response was schtum. For reasons we detailed here before, litigation seems imminent. Class action lawsuit is also likely, though the company is in hiding. Staff that actively oversaw and participated in the embezzlement is criminally liable, even if leaving the company later. They’ve been made aware of this (fraud, theft, forgery/embezzlement among the possible charges). Failing that, or in addition to that, pension providers can be sued. We’ll explain the legal grounds some other day.

What does this have to do with Techrights? Sirius is describing itself as Britain’s most respected and best established Open Source business.

If this is what the “most respected and best established” boils down to, then there’s serious trouble. Sirius is a major liability and a stain. This isn’t the company I joined more than 12 years ago. “You need to lie to keep your job” or “take one for the team” or “do something unethical/illegal to keep your salary” is the hallmark or symptom of criminal management, which needs to be prosecuted, not served (except served papers). I confronted the management many times before leaving (for over a year!) and nothing improved. They kept paying the salary, but behaviour only worsened over time, so I reached out to a friend.

Suffice to say, you need not be particularly charismatic to persuade workers whom you pay to also do bad things, acting out of fear (obedience for a payment). During a pandemic and financial crises (exacerbated by invasion of Ukraine) it gets even easier for bad people to compel workers to act unethically. This is a recipe for disaster.

Internally, as noted here back in December, I had circulated communications to try to ameliorate things amicably. But regarding my letters, however, they never wrote anything back. The attitude was to simply ignore the issues and to ignore the reporter. At one point I mused that I could joke with the boss, “so how has that secret money from Bill Gates worked out for you, eh?” Does one reckon that if the CEO goes to prison, Bill Gates will go visit him in prison? It’s closer than the facility Jeffrey Epstein was in when Gates visited him. As far as we know, the CEO is in Spokane area/WA somewhere (not too far from Seattle). He is hiding there, possibly not just from workers but also former wives.

Anyway, E-mails to the CEO are now bouncing. It’s a company that’s not functioning, lacks the staff to actually meet SLAs, and sooner or later will receive demands from clients that a refund is issued (not that the company has any money left).

There’s only one manager left in the company, apparently living with his girlfriend or someone else somewhere in the US (we cannot verify all the pertinent details). The company can implode any day now and we might hear just days later that he has been kicked out with a suitcase (he is working double-shifts at the moment, trying to slow down the collapse, which is inevitable anyhow).

The collapse of the company can devastate many people, who “have been in touch about trying to track down [...] pensions from the original Sirius pension scheme,” to quote one former colleague. “I am in the same situation and had previously given up trying to track it down.”

We still wonder how many people are impacted by this — probably a lot. It’s hard to find or track down every single person whom you worked with over a decade ago.

The Standard Life and NOW: Pensions plans/schemes are both registered with a company that has only one employee: the CEO. He moved everything else to two shells, one in the UK (Ltd.) and another in the US (Inc.). Both pension providers investigate this matter now.

Two months ago we requested written assurances from NOW: Pensions that the pensions cannot be scuttled as before. For the time being, Standard Life refuses to even tell what happened (the managers there made a guess/hunch) but it seems like no money ever reached their end. Now that the company is, in effect, ‘in hiding’ (a former CEO is rushing to delete anything that ever connected him to the company) It’ll be hard to sue, but accountability is still possible. The police may soon step in.

Sirius ‘Open Source’ Casualty of Mismanagement

Probably the final week of this series

Sirius Open Source watersideSummary: Sirius ‘Open Source’ has failed to sell what it was actually good at; instead it hired unqualified people and outsourced almost everything

THIS is the part of this series where we focus on examples of Sirius failing on technical merits and compliance/conformance. Eventually we decided to show redacted E-mails on ISO along with my copied messages to management regarding bollocking and how it all started, me asking for an apology etc. Being accredited or recognised isn’t the same as being capable and potent. As I mentioned in the very first post in this series, when I joined the company it was different beyond recognition. The company had its own hosting (in its own premises). In 2022 we were suffering habitual outages as we don’t control our systems anymore (Slack, AWS downtimes were common; in prior years clients that relied on Clownflare also suffered outages due to Clownflare rather than their own hosting). To make matters worse, there were security breaches and the company ignored them. I kept bringing that to management’s attention, only to be ignored or rebuffed. Remember this hoax of Citation/Atlas was covered in Techrights years ago. Sirius does not teach its staff real security and does not hire people who understand or value security.

The company had a bizarre trajectory of moving from self-hosted (e.g. Asterisk), then outsourced (but still Free software, ‘managed’ Asterisk), then outsourced proprietary spyware like Google Voice. If “Open Source has won” and if Free software is becoming more widely used, then why is Sirius going in the exact opposite direction of what it was advocating? This is a management decision. It’s not the fault of technical staff — the staff which all along opposed this.

Notice the practice of password outsourcing. Here’s a direct quote sent in a request to me personally: “Put the WordPress credentials (admin user, etc) in a lastpass note and share it with xxxxx (securely, within lastpass) and we’ll be setting up a very temporary and basic portal to share info across the team, to help keep everyone better updated given how Absolutely Mentally Busy it is right now. It’s entirely for internal use when on the VPN.”

It’s another example of mishandling access credentials inside third parties (Slack, LastPass etc.), oftentimes not just rejecting “Open Source” but actively ripping apart Open Source things that work, replacing them with technically inferior and likely illegal (in some cases, due to data protection) proprietary stuff.

The management did even worse than this; it failed to do very basic things, such as sending payslips and sometimes paying the pension provider. Instead they made colourful excuses, so I decided to take photographs of letters from the pension provider, recalling those blunders and deciding that it’s worth discussing belatedly (and maybe add E-mails also; there were loads of E-mails about payslips, not just pensions, spanning different years from 2018 until the present day; there were phonecalls too, but those aren’t recorded).

The management was also bad at communication and correspondence. See the example below (2019):

Subject: Re: I need these tickets dealt with by support
Date: Thu, 3 Oct 2019 11:15:56 +0100
From: Rianne Schestowitz xxxxxxx
To: xxxxxxx
CC: xxxxxxx

Hi xxxxxxx,

I responded to this email last weekend. Please check your inbox. If you
haven’t received it, I can send it again.

Many thanks,


Rianne Schestowitz, NOC Extension 2834423
Sirius – stress free technology

t: xxxxxxx

> Hi,
> I need these tickets dealt with by support.
> 1. Ticket#108642: Roy or xxxxxxx need to answer about security.
> 2. Ticket#108813: Replied with more questions. Can’t reproduce the
> error so far. Back with Support, awaiting feedback.
> 3. (Multiple) Tickets relating to masking – Code fix done, Release done
> and in live. Check with each client once data reimported. Support
> team can do this. xxxxxxx have already confirmed it works.
> 1. Ticket#108833: Already fixed, just needs a fresh xxxxxxx import.
> 2. Ticket#108769: The masking fix is done, we just need to schedule a
> reload.
> xxxxxxx xxxxxxx
> Sirius – stress free technology
> Tel: xxxxxxx

This was the year bullying against staff started, not too long after Gates Foundation money had landed under an NDA and something called Sirius Open Source Inc. was quietly formed in the state of Washington (where Microsoft and Gates are).

We spent nearly a month explaining what I had already written internally before resigning; we remembered to publish the entire PDF at the end (crossposted in my personal site too) as it is important to emphasise that I raised most of these concerns for years inside the company. Inaction and retaliation led to what became of it, spilling the beans out in public. I never did anything even remotely like this with any of my past employers.

Losing Your Best Friend

Harvey Tobkes and Roy

I AM grieving today. I lost my best friend. I had been worrying for more than 20 years that this day would come.

Many decisions that I made in my life were guided in part — if not largely — by Harvey. I always listened to him and asked him for advice, since I was a teenager in fact. Harvey was like a second father to me. Harvey was honest, attentive, and knowledgeable. I could see it and I could feel it. I felt like it was reciprocal. We had a special chemistry in spite of the vast age difference (more than 50 years). Maybe the age difference assured me that he knew a lot better than me what life would bring, how to prepare for it, and what paths to choose. We used to amicably joke about this unusual connection and we corresponded a lot. Anita and Harvey sent me more gifts than I can recall and I sent them some too. Anita’s extensive and marvellous artwork has been at my site for two decades. Harvey constantly bragged about her skills.

Harvey was a proud father of 3 children and a loving husband who appreciated human values (and contact) rather than accumulation of wealth. This is a quality that sadly so many people nowadays lack. Harvey was a principled person who did not judge people based on what they had but based on who they really were.

I first met him in the late 1990s, if I recall correctly first at the gym at a hotel (that’s where I worked out back then), only hours or days before he came to our home. As a teenager back then, I didn’t know much about him but I had met his son 2 years earlier (his son is the husband of my mom’s cousin). But there was good mental chemistry and because he had a lot of witty things to say we stayed in touch for the next 22+ years. He always had very useful advice to offer and he never lacked the time to advise me on matters of personal life, career, and so on. My “career” ended up as mostly activism. I devoted my life to exposing injustice and corruption. I still do that. Harvey was supportive, whereas my (biological) parents don’t fully understand me.

In 2004 I set up a blog for him and he was active until January 16th of this year. Only 1-2 days before his death he forwarded me an E-mail boasting about his granddaughter Rachelle. Years ago he asked me to advise him (and her) on some personal and technical matters or key decisions. I remember all this like it happened yesterday, but upon a closer look that was a long time ago. Last time I met them in person (2006) he gave me valuable guidance. While it’s difficult to remember the dialogue in detail, the overall picture stayed with me, as did the thousands of E-mails we exchanged. My home still has many gifts that he sent over the years; I use them regularly; he’s still there everywhere I turn. I can’t forget all he did for me. I tried to reciprocate as best I could. I hope I enriched his life as much as he enriched mine.

Harvey wasn’t a man of greed. He would occasionally dismiss the mindset of collecting money and that helped inspire me in my current route. He had a lovely sense of humour since the first time I met him and he didn’t judge people based on superficial things. I’ll always admire that trait of his. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that without his guidance I could end up living a less fulfilling and more unhappy life. I always valued Harvey’s vast experience in life (he was already in his 70s when we first met). Young people should learn from Harvey, not from television.

Harvey knew that a stroll in the beach can be not just healthy but also a truly rewarding experience — something that money cannot buy. I’m grateful that I had the experience joining him in his walk there and a regret I still have is that we never did that again (and cannot do it again, either). A long time ago I vouched to Harvey that I would keep his blog running as long as I’m able to; I know how much he liked writing there, knowing people from all over the world were reading it, even total strangers. His words can inspire many, even if some people under-appreciate what he has to say. He loved his wife a great deal and he repeatedly asked about my wife too. He even occasionally wrote to her directly. He kept asking about my family and he knew my siblings individually, all of them by name. He cared a lot less about matters like work and money; I appreciated that. I envy how sharp he was even in his 90s. It’s like he never aged since his 70s and in my mind I still had the picture of him as when we first met.

While I’m deeply sad, grieving, I can still imagine witty Harvey saying something to the effect of, “cheer up!” He always valued good banter or humour and he was rarely sad, at least publicly. You only live once. Be happy.

If I ever turn 90 I will still remember Harvey and miss him very much. Thank you for everything you have done. Nothing can replace that.

After More Than an Hour on the Phone, “Standard Life” Says Pension Was ‘Transferred’, Refuses to Give Any More Information (Money Gone ‘Missing’)

Speaking to pension schemes can be a massive waste of time. They are good at amassing people’s money and little other than that. Last week I spent over half an hour on the phone with Standard Life. They could not locate my pension! Nothing helped. They sent me to “Web sites” and I spent a weekend trying to find papers from 12 years ago. Now, with all the references and codes, they still say there is no record of those. Not my name, not the scheme number… nothing!

And they tried to send me astray to some “Web site”… as if that would work better than a person from the company on the phone, with full access to all the people and relevant systems. This is corporate greed in action.

Having spoken to 3 pension providers so far this month, I’m beyond appalled by the state of that industry, which the government blindly protects (to maintain ‘calm’). In its financial filings in Companies House, one such provider cautioned about its state in light of “COVID-19″ and “War in Ukraine”.

If myself, a tech-literate person, struggles to locate such things, then what about old people who don’t use technology and barely use the telephone? What about relatives of dead people, whose pension funds they don’t even know by name (or number)? The government’s pension tracker does not even work. I tried it about 4 times. It doesn’t even bring up a complete list of companies. This is incredible!

So my advice to all people, in the UK if not elsewhere too, call your pension provider to actually affirm the accounts are actually there as stated. Do not take anything for granted. Study the financial state of those schemes; in some countries it is publicly accessible for free, e.g. via Companies House in the UK.

The government can try to blame this on Russia or “an act of nature” (Wuhan virus), but the bottom line is, people’s economic lifelines aren’t safe and nobody in the media seems to be talking about it. Maybe they worry it would cause a panic and a run on the bank (or on pension schemes; people emptying their pension funds would open a whole new jar of worms, such as old people who suddenly lack a pension and rely on the government for food and heating… some already get called the “working poor” and rely on food banks).

The global system of finance is failing more and more people over time. The capital has been captured by the few.

I eventually found a “lead” (after more than half an hour spoken to a lady called Leah Brown at Standard Life). She suddenly could (unlike her colleagues) see the pension was moved to another provider in 2016. She did not, however, say which company did this and was very evasive about the whole thing, hoping to deflect to the Pension Regulator while acknowledging they almost never sent me any communications about anything. This seems to have become “normal”; they don’t inform people of anything.

In summary, they more or less lied to me about having nothing on their system about my account; upon escalation they suddenly knew the year of some change, less than 7 years ago (when you phone them up they say they retain the full audio of calls for up to 7 years, so why can’t they retain that much in actual records of pension schemes?).

To be continued…

5-6 Days Later Still No Reply From ONS; Statistic Regulator Receives Formal Complaint

On Tuesday we’ll get some more mortality numbers from ONS, but in the meantime it’s hard to trust their output. As just noted, I’ve not received any clarification or response to them (they ask people to give them up to 10 days) and some already file formal complaints about ONS deceiving/misleading the public: “In Nov 2022 we (Professor Fenon and team) made a formal complaint to the Statistic Regulator about the multiple anomalies in the ONS mortality by vaccination status reports. On 20 Jan 2023 they final [sic] responded and they agreed with our major concern that 1) the ONS data was based on a biased sample that under-represented the proportion of unvaccinated in England; and 2) the ONS data could not be used to make any assertions about vaccine efficacy or safety.”

Seeing what happened to the Swindon data, this certainly smells like cover-up of epic proportions/scale. We need to keep chasing them. They gradually run out of excuses and evasion tactics.

Non-Disclosure Agreements Are Typically Bribes

Video download link | md5sum 1207d847e412d9c458be0b408d43f29c
Sirius Bullying the Geeks, Driving Away Core Staff
Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 4.0

Summary: The managers at Sirius ‘Open Source’ have been bullying staff since 2019, even more so after the Gates Foundation passed money to the CEO under an NDA (while the company created a new shell in Washington); today we examine why the NDA was, in effect, very much like a bribe (or two bribes, depending on the kind of NDA) and then examine one memorable example of management abusing depressed and ill geeks

FOR a number of years already we’ve discussed NDAs as a form of bribery. NDAs should probably not be legal at all; people who use NDAs extensively cause harm; they typically engage in criminal business activities, which they’re desperate to hide (from the public, authorities etc.), so they pay ‘hush money’ in advance).

The video above discusses this post from 3 hours ago and explains why I’ve generally come to the conclusion that many types of NDA are indistinguishable from bribes. Had there been no strings attached, I’d be able to give more concrete evidence of what happened in 2019. I got a hint of it only once and Rianne was a witness too. She heard what the CEO told us. I did not record it, but in hindsight I ought to have recorded it (had I known in advance). This was never mentioned in writing after that (or before that). I suppose that verbal mention was itself a violation of the NDA, but maybe the CEO hoped nobody would notice. White-collar criminals love NDAs.

Yes! I still rememberEither way, the main topic of the above video is how a colleague of mine, a highly technical person, was persistently bullied by vicious ‘managers’ without any relevant training. We never forgot this. We’ll always remember.

If you work in a company governed by trolls and managed by their cronies, get out for your own sake. It only goes downhill from there. Companies cannot recover from this and sellouts worsen things. They’re a final act of desperation, milking what’s left of the brand’s past reputation.

When Sirius Split Into 3 Companies (or Shells) Without Telling Staff

Summary: Today we begin to tell the story about a company that went astray, routinely lied to the staff, and even forced staff to sign bogus contracts under false pretenses

THE last part showed that Sirius ‘Open Source’ had begun ‘hiding’ behind Carbon Accounting, impeding potential lawsuits against the company — a company that now lacks an address and hides the address of its managers as well (one is in fiscal ‘exile’). We have good reasons to suspect that the company has many more skeletons in its closet; it would help explain unpaid and overdue bills (suppliers).

We’ve decided to cover contract-signing and related E-mails in two sub-parts, seeing that the subject may take a while to cover/digest and would likely overwhelm readers if covered in one day. Hence, today we’ll give the gist of the story about the new ‘shell’ of Sirius Corporation, Sirius ‘Open Source’. The next part will present some pertinent, original evidence. The public and even former Sirius employees ought to see it. It might alarm some of them.

To be very clear, “joining” Sirius ‘Open Source’ wasn’t up for debate. It was compulsory because of a contract-signing ritual they hadn’t bothered telling us about! I kept asking questions about it, but I was not receiving honest answers. That was 4 years ago! Things have not improved since then. Despite what was said in E-mail invitations, we did not receive any substantial training and we have good reasons to believe it was a “cover” for something else. In the invitations they didn’t include the contract-signing in the agenda (we’ll show evidence in the next part) and didn’t include the new contract, so they had us sign it blindly on the spot with threats if we don’t do so. In other words, under peer and time pressure we were made to agree to a contract not presented to us properly; the correct protocol is, send in advance or give it some time for a lawyer to check before consent (“implied consent” under pressure does not qualify).

As noted at the top, it’s probably too late to take action over this because the company is more or less ‘hiding’. The company did not give us a copy of the contact afterwards, so we don’t have a copy of what we actually signed. It was ad hoc and dodgy, so basically it’s like in the movies where they say “just sign below the dotted line”.

We said we would go to the company’s office for training and self-appraisal but the real purpose was signing a new contract, not presented in advance. That contract was for a new company, not the company that existed since 1998 (and has listed only one member of staff for years already; he meanwhile created Sirius Open Source Inc. in the US).

It should be noted that all this happened a month before a shell was created in the US after Gates Foundation had paid the CEO. This “training and workshop” meeting was clearly a decoy as they never mentioned signing of a contract with a new company. We’ll show the correspondence tomorrow. Any attempt to not attend the meeting was quickly met with threats from management. Wait for the E-mails to be shown, as careful redaction will be needed. Yes, they almost blackmailed everyone into coming under the guise of “training from [redacted]” — something that barely even happened! In other words, the real purpose was not spoken about; the real intention was to get us to sign some papers without telling us the reason. I asked about it (face to face) and they declined to comment. I remember this clearly. This was rather dodgy, even back then, not just in retrospect. They would pull us in one at a time for a ‘chat’ and then ask us to sign papers. This isn’t just some sneaky means of legal manipulation, it’s very likely unlawful, but no legal advisor was present and no record of the meeting was made, just a signature. So we (re)joined a company worth 1 pound! Yes, not kidding! We all signed up to join a new company with no assets. Meanwhile the absent CEO (hiding in another country, probably dodging financial liabilities) was failing to tell us he and a partner registered a third company; they operate in the US, at least on paper sometimes, so some people need to double-task in office hours in the US (evening in the UK). This whole “double job” situation (more duties, as it’s like we’re working in two virtual companies) didn’t mean increase in pay but greater uncertainty. We were meant to be covering up deception (pretending to be a US company) in addition to the technical work getting worse and worse.

It should be noted that Rianne’s contract (typically weekend cover) does not include lunch break, which is strange and legally dubious. Moreover, if you expand and cover also the US, then amend the contract accordingly. But at this point the company was likely operating outside the rules already. Anybody who works as a Support Engineer and also performs helpdesk tasks (as nobody works in weekends in the US) is suddenly put on a dedicated line for Reception in the US. The job itself changed.

It’s probably too late to hold the company legally accountable, but if the “court of public opinion” counts for anything, then today and tomorrow we objectively tell what happened.

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