Eastbourne printing firm accused of buying gifts for public officials

Smith & Ouzman, printers in Brampton Road Hampden Park Eastbourne. February 21st 2013 E08189P ENGSUS00120130221121838
Smith & Ouzman, printers in Brampton Road Hampden Park Eastbourne. February 21st 2013 E08189P ENGSUS00120130221121838

The chairman of a ballot paper printing firm accused of bribing African public officials bought a PlayStation and a laptop for an official’s son, a court heard this week.

Christopher Smith, 71, chairman of Smith & Ouzman Ltd in Eastbourne, and sales director son, Nicholas Smith, 42, allegedly lined the pockets of overseas officials to score lucrative contracts.

International sales manager, Tim Forrester, 47, and company agent, Abdirahman Omar, 38, are also said to be involved in the alleged plot, between November 2006 and December 2010.

They paid £433,000 worth of bribes to public officials in Mauritania, Ghana, Somaliland and Kenya, Southwark Crown Court was told.

Among the organisations targeted were the Kenyan National Examination Council [KNEC], the Interim Independent Electoral Commission of Kenya, the Mauritanian Ministry of the Interior and the National Electoral Commission of Somaliland, it is said. The publicly funded bodies, financially supported by their taxpayers or foreign aid, ended up paying inflated prices for printing work from the company.

Prosecutor Mark Bryant-Hero QC said, “There was a man called Ephraim Wanderi who worked at the KNEC and he was a computer man, head of the section and a man named Paul Wasanga.

“Christopher Smith appeared to have had a reasonably close relationship with Mr Wanderi. Mr Smith appeared in interview to accept giving gifts to Mr Wanderi.”

The gifts included a Samsung Mini Notebook, a PlayStation complete with games and an iPod, jurors heard.

S&O had lost lucrative contracts with the KNEC and were attempting to win them back, it is alleged. In interview investigation Daniel Sutherland asked Christopher Smith if the expensive electricals were in return for favour winning contracts.

“Did you supply this gift to Mr Wanderi,” asked Mr Sutherland.

“I expect so, my memory is not good enough, we gave sent him different things,” said Mr Smith in interview.

“What would have been done or expected in return for those goods,’ asked Mr Sutherland.

“Nothing – it is a gift.”

“Is it normal business practice at S&O to supply gifts like that to public officials?” asked Mr Sutherland.

“In Africa, yes. In the UK maybe calendars, we send out calendars to different organisations in England... we get invited to go to Wimbledon and so on, it is the norm.”

It is alleged, Mr Wanderi’s sons sent a list of their demands including a PlayStation 3.

“Was it a mutual gift-giving exercise, did you and your family receive gifts,” asked Mr Sutherland.

“I have been out to his house and had meals and so on and he has entertained me, but that is normal,” replied Smith.

Christopher Smith, of, Ripe, Lewes, Nicholas Smith, of Cavendish Avenue, and Forester, of Victoria Drive, both in Eastbourne, and Omar, of northwest London; deny corruptly agreeing to make payments.

The trial continues.