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« Does business-friendly mean unfriendly to graft? | Main | Audit role in finding fraud needs revamp »
Wednesday
Oct302013

SFO charges currency printer, execs for Africa bribes

The UK Serious Fraud Office charged a specialty printing company and four individuals, including the firm's former chairman, with paying more than £400,000 in bribes in Africa.

Smith & Ouzman Limited, two of its directors, an employee, and an agent were charged under the Section 1 Prevention of Corruption Act 1906, the SFO said. They appeared in court last week.

Smith & Ouzma specializes in printing security documents such as checks, currency, payment vouchers, and ballots.

The alleged bribes were paid in Mauritania, Ghana, Somaliland, and Kenya between 2006 and 2010, the SFO said.

The four individuals, all British nationals, are:

  • Chris Smith, 70, of East Sussex, the company's former Chairman
  • Nick Smith, 43, of East Sussex, the Sales and Marketing Director
  • Tim Forrester, 45, of East Sussex, the International Sales Manager, and
  • Abdirahman Omar, 37, of London, an agent for Smith and Ouzman

The SFO's investigation began in 2010. At around the same time, there were UK arrests and raids in another case involving currency printer Securency. Eighty people from the SFO and police executed search warrants at eight houses and a business.

Securency -- half owned by the Reserve Bank of Australia -- makes polymer banknotes. It allegedly paid bribes and offered favors to win contracts in Asia, Africa and Latin America.

The SFO didn't say if the two cases were connected.

An older U.S. case involved another currency printer -- American Bank Note Holographics. In 2001, Joshua Cantor, the company's president, pleaded guilty to a four-count federal criminal information. It charged him with conspiracy to defraud the U.S., a books-and-records violation, making false statements to auditors, and conspiracy to violate the FCPA. The charges arose from bribes in Saudi Arabia. He still hasn't been sentenced.

Smith & Ouzman, founded in 1939, is based in Eastbourne, England.

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Richard L. Cassin is the Publisher and Editor of the FCPA Blog. He can be contacted here.