News & what's on - Written by on Thursday, February 12, 2015 11:33 - 0 Comments

BREAKING: Chickens come home to roost: Sentences handed down to Smith & Ouzman directors in ‘Chickengate’

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After their conviction before Christmas two employees of Smith and Ouzman Ltd, a printing company based in Eastbourne, were sentenced today.

In what has been dubbed the ‘Chickengate trial’ the former Chairman and Sales and Marketing Director were sentenced following an SFO investigation into corrupt payments made for the award of business contracts to the company.  As we said before Christmas, SME’s and their directors should take note – they are equally, if not more, at risk in the context of a criminal prosecution.

Continuing the Avian theme, lead prosecuting counsel for the SFO was a Mr. Heron…no doubt hand picked.

Smith and Ouzman is a security printer, and the supplier of many of the Christmas vouchers for some of the UK’s top high street retailers.  The Company’s other security printing services ranging from financial services to event ticketing and election and government.

The SFO Press Release reports:

‘This follows an SFO investigation into corrupt payments made in return for the award of contracts to the company.

Smith and Ouzman Ltd specialises in security documents such as ballot papers and education certificates.  Its chairman, Christopher John Smith, aged 72 from East Sussex, was sentenced to 18 months’ imprisonment, suspended for two years, for two counts of corruptly agreeing to make payments, contrary to section 1(1) of the Prevention of Corruption Act 1906, to run concurrently. He was also ordered to carry out 250 hours of unpaid work and has been given a three month curfew.

Nicholas Charles Smith, the sales and marketing director of the company, aged 43 from East Sussex, was sentenced to three years’ imprisonment for three counts of corruptly agreeing to make payments, to run concurrently. The company itself was also convicted of the same three offences and will be sentenced at a later date.

Both men were disqualified from acting as company directors for six years.

Director of the SFO, David Green CB QC commented:

“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 passing sentence HHJ Higgins commented:

“Your behaviour was cynical, deplorable and deeply antisocial, suggesting moral turpitude.”

A hearing has been scheduled to deal with confiscation proceedings against the company and the individuals on 19 October 2015.’

As we previously reported the SFO said that “the [c….hicken] word [was] used…for bribe”.

At trial both Christopher and Nicholas Smith argued that the term “chicken” was a loose term that could mean “money, cash, payment, facilitation payments” or “subsistence payment” (such as for travel expenses) and that “S&O do not pay bribes”.

It is reported that in an email sent to Chris Smith in December 2008 in relation to business he was trying to develop in Kenya chicken was referenced repeatedly [verbatim as provided by the SFO] said: “Hes anice guy smith he is in my pockets now, lets use em to get the contract and as i promised em we get the order he gets chicken…….Smith these peoples problem is chiken after award and I told them as lond as we get the tender and after looking at our margins then will definately give them the chicken…”

After being found guilty both men accepted their guilt in reports in the run up to sentencing.  However, this cut no ice with the judge who commented that pleading guilty would have saved an ‘immense amount of pubic money’.

Confiscation proceedings follow later this year. 

 

 

 

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