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SFO wins convictions of printing company, two execs for Africa bribes

Image courtesy of Smith & OuzmanSmith and Ouzman Ltd and two of its executives were convicted Monday in London's Southwark Crown Court after a Serious Fraud Office prosecution of corrupt payments to win business for the company.

Bribes to public officials in Kenya, Ghana, Mauritania, and Somaliland amounted to nearly £500,00 ($780,000), the SFO said. The offenses occurred between November 2006 and December 2010.

The jury acquitted two other individuals.

Smith and Ouzman is a printing firm based in Eastbourne. It specializes in security documents such as ballot papers and certificates.

The trial started in mid-November. The jury began deliberating on December 17. It convicted the company of three counts of corruptly agreeing to make payments contrary to section 1(1) of the Prevention of Corruption Act 1906. 

The Smith and Ouzman executives found guilty were:

Christopher John Smith, 71, former chairman from East Sussex, was convicted of two counts of corruptly agreeing to make payments.

Nicholas Charles Smith, 43, former sales and marketing director from East Sussex, was convicted of three counts of corruptly agreeing to make payments.

Two others were acquitted:

Timothy Hamilton Forrester, 57, former international sales manager from East Sussex, was acquitted of one count of corruptly agreeing to make payments.

Abdirahman Mohamed Omar, 38, a sales agent from London, was acquitted of one count of corruptly agreeing to make payments in relation to a contract in Somaliland.

The SFO's investigation of the company started in 2010. The defendants first appeared in the Westminster Magistrates Court in October 2013.

SFO director David Green said it was the SFO's first conviction of a corporation for offenses involving bribery of foreign public officials.

He said, "Such criminality, whether involving companies large or small severely damages the UK's commercial reputation and feeds corrupt governance in the developing world."

Green said he was grateful to authorities in Kenya for help in the case. The SFO said it also had assistance from authorities in Ghana and Switzerland.

Sentencing is set for February 12, 2015.

The SFO's December 22, 2014 release is here.


Richard L. Cassin is the publisher and editor of the FCPA Blog. He can be contacted here.