BREAKING NEWS: Jail sentences for Smith & Ouzman pair

Smith & Ouzman, printers in Brampton Road Hampden Park Eastbourne. February 21st 2013 E08191P ENGSUS00120130221121912
Smith & Ouzman, printers in Brampton Road Hampden Park Eastbourne. February 21st 2013 E08191P ENGSUS00120130221121912

The sales and marketing director of printing firm Smith & Ouzman has been jailed for making corrupt payments to foreign officials.

Nicholas Charles Smith, 43, of Cavendish Avenue, has been sentenced to three years, while his father Christopher John Smith, 71, the chairman of the company, was sentenced to 18 months – suspended for two years – in a “simple act of mercy” by the judge.

Judge David Higgins said there was “undoubtedly an element of tragedy” to the case.

The family company, which has traded since about 1850, has a reputation for high quality printing and care of its staff and the Eastbourne community, the court heard.

Judge Higgins told the pair, “That you and the company should have been brought so low by the convictions before the court appears to flow from you, Christopher Smith’s decision to expand the business from the 1970s onwards into Africa.

“This included the sort of material, at least from the 1990s, which the trial was concerned namely electoral ballot papers of one sort or another and examination certificates.

“During the trial you, Christopher Smith, accepted you had been exposed to corruption once in Africa in the shape of land road blocks which you said you paid and requested bribes for airport clearance which you said that you refused.

“You Nicholas Smith accepted that propensity put to you that there was a culture of corruption in Africa.”

He added, “Having made the decision to expand into the African market, you Christopher Smith became aware that bribes were likely to advance your company’s financial interests on that continent.

“Whatever misgiving you might have felt at first as to which there is no evidence before the court, it is inescapable that by the time of the indictment period was reached - 2006 to 2010 - the payment of bribes by you and your son was routine and commonplace.”

Judge Higgins added the loss to the people of Kenya and Mauritania was beyond financial who were less able to trust the integrity of their electoral and examination systems.

“The consequences of which, as you yourself were at pains to point out during the trial, could be catastrophic, leading in the past to violence and loss of life,’ he said.

“The climate in which the company resorted to bribes, this was the climate into which your son was introduced when he started playing a more prominent role within the company.”

The crimes were pre-meditated, pre-planned, sophisticated and very serious, noted the judge.

“It is no exaggeration o say that you were routinely and repeatedly committing serious crimes over a period of years. In short your behaviour to that extent was cynical, deplorable and deeply antisocial, suggesting at least in this context moral turpitude.

“If you behave in this way you must accept the consequences which the courts have long made clear are likely to be serious,” said Judge Higgins.

“You were party to the siphoning off of government funds to countries which could ill-afford it.”

Christopher Smith was found guilty of two counts of corruptly agreeing to make payments relating to deals struck in Kenya.

He was given 18 months suspended for two years, ordered to carry out 250 hours of unpaid work and subjected to a three month curfew between 7pm and 6am.

Nicholas Smith was found guilty of three counts of the same charge relating to contracts in Kenya and Mauritania and was jailed for three years.

Both father and son were disqualified from working as company directors for six years.