A UK printing company has been fined in a landmark case for bribery and corruption.
Smith & Ouzman, a Sussex-based printing firm that specialises in security documents, is the first ever company to be convicted under the Prevention of Corruption Act 1906.
The Serious Fraud Office undertook a four year investigation and found that the company made payments totalling £395,074 to public officials for business contracts in Kenya and Mauritania. The main bribes were for officials in the Kenyan Election and Examinations Council to win business tenders.
Two employees of Smith & Ouzman were sentenced in February 2015 for their role in the corruption. Chairman John Smith received an 18-month prison sentence, suspended for two years, and his son Nicholas was sentenced to three years in jail.
The total fine payable comes to £2.2 million – including a £881,158 confiscation order and £25,000 in costs.
Now the court has imposed a £18,693 confiscation order on Nicholas Smith and his father has been ordered to pay £4,500. Both men have to pay £75,000 costs each. They have also been disqualified from acting as company directors for six years.
Bribery and corruption of foreign officials is damaging to the country in which the corruption occurs, but is also damaging to the reputation of UK businesses. The SFO has sent out a clear message that they are serious about stamping down on corruption and will prosecute where possible. In the past, the SFO has entered into settlements with companies rather than prosecutions, but this case shows that they are willing to use their powers accordingly.
David Green, director of the SFO, said: “This case marks the first convictions secured against a corporate for foreign bribery, following a contested trial. The convictions recognise the corrosive impact of such conduct on growth and the integrity of business contracts in the developing world.”
In a previous blog, Penalties and Prevention: Bribery and Corruption in Business, we explain more about the UK Bribery Act and what it means for businesses, big and small.
It’s important for any UK business to keep all their business dealings above board. Just because it’s an easy route, doesn’t mean corruption and bribery is the way forward. Keeping your business legitimate means you won’t run the risk of fines, prosecutions, and even prison sentences for you and your staff. The SFO has shown that they will pursue the companies and individuals responsible for corruption in the UK and overseas.
If you are worried about your business or need legal advice, please contact Slater and Gordon’s expert business lawyers. Call us on freephone 0800 916 9054 or contact us online and we will call you.