Smith & Ouzman fined £2.2m following corruption verdict

By Sarah Cosgrove, Monday 11 January 2016

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Smith & Ouzman has been fined £2.2m for making corrupt payments to secure print contracts in Africa.


This was a landmark case for the SFO

The fine was laid down by Mr Recorder Mitchell QC at Southwark Crown Court, London, on Friday. The £15m-turnover Eastbourne-based security and financial printer will have five years to pay.

The judgment is the last episode in a landmark fraud case conducted by the Serious Fraud Office (SFO), which saw the security printer become the first company to be convicted for offences involving bribery of foreign public officials, alongside its former sales and marketing director and chairman.

The company cooperated with the SFO throughout the investigation and trial, something acknowledged in court on a number of occasions.

Now it has vowed to move on and continue its programme of diversification, which includes developing new products for its main markets of finance, education and elections.  

Current Smith & Ouzman chairman Phil Ouzman said the financial penalty was “significant” but added: “The company is resilient and, with the help of our dedicated employees, we will continue to deliver the highest level of secure, innovative products and services. 

“We have taken this matter very seriously and learned many lessons during this difficult time. We have demonstrated our commitment, controls and ethos to new and existing customers and are grateful to all of them for continuing to trust in us.”  

The company was found guilty in December 2014 of making corrupt payments to secure print contracts in Kenya and Mauritania, alongside sales and marketing director Nicholas Charles Smith - known as Nick Smith - and his father, former company chairman Christopher John Smith. They both resigned as company directors on 31 December 2014. 

In February 2015 Nicholas Charles Smith was sentenced to three years in jail and Christopher John Smith was sentenced to 18 months’ imprisonment suspended for two years. He was also handed 250 hours of unpaid work and was subject to a three-month curfew. 

Both men are also disqualified from being a company director for six years.

Smith & Ouzman is now conducting a review of its business. It said it had won new business from banks, local authorities and FTSE 100 businesses during 2015

The corruption case was dubbed "chickengate" by African media outlets after the repeated references to "chicken", which the SFO said was "the word used...for bribe", in email evidence.

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