Alibaba Group Holding Ltd (NASDAQ:BABA) axed four employees accused of stealing more than 100 boxes of mooncakes after reprogramming an internal system. Mooncakes are a traditional delicacy shared during the Mid-Autumn Festival, which starts this week, notes The Washington Post.

Alibaba
alibaba by sam_churchill on 2014-05-07 09:46:21

Alibaba accuses the employees of theft  

According to state media, the Chinese Internet giant offered big discounts on the circular treats to the employees. But the fired employees allegedly took more than the allotted amount by exploiting loopholes in the software, said the e-commerce giant.

On September 12, Alibaba put surplus mooncakes on its internal site at a special price for employees. A temporary page was created for this purpose, but four of its security department employees allegedly developed computer programs that helped them  steal 124 boxes of mooncakes, according to China.org.

In a statement, Alibaba said the firings were “unfortunate but we wish them a better future.” The Chinese firm said the four employees “cheated by technological means and snapped up 124 extra boxes of mooncakes… The security department employees, as defenders of company rules, breached their duty by cheating with tools, thus touching the integrity and honesty bottom line.”

Fired employee said he was not stealing

According to China.org, one of the fired employees explained and clarified in a post that he didn’t steal the mooncakes, Instead, he said he wanted to buy a box and give them to his relatives as a gift. According to him, at first, he ordered the mooncake by clicking the button on the platform, but he wasn’t successful because of other programmers using self-developed programs to snap up purchases.

So he also designed a program to place an order for the mooncake, and while he was busy with other work, the self-developed program ordered 16 boxes of mooncakes by then, which he didn’t notice. He reportedly asked the administrative department to cancel the order, but before it could be done, the company fired him. The employee clarified that he never thought of selling the mooncakes to earn a profit.

The incident soon sparked a heated debate online. Some referred to it as a “tragedy caused by the mooncake,” while some criticized the employee wrongdoings, and some even raised questions about Alibaba’s decision to  fire the employees, reportted China.org. The four employees have ended their contracts and will soon leave the company.

On Tuesday, Alibaba shares closed down 0.52% at $100.28. Year to date, the stock is up almost 23%, while in the last year, it is up more than 55%.