Eastbourne-based Smith & Ouzman, along with four individuals associated with the business, appeared in court yesterday (23 October) on charges brought by the Serious Fraud Office (SFO).

The SFO said the charges relate to allegations of “agreeing to make payments totaling nearly half a million pounds, contrary to section one Prevention of Corruption Act 1906. It is alleged that these payments were used to influence the award of business contracts to the company.”

The precise amount cited by the SFO is £413,552.12.

The alleged offences relate to transactions in Mauritania, Ghana, Somaliland and Kenya between November 2006 and December 2010. The SFO began its investigation in October 2010.

Alongside the company itself, the individuals charged were: Chris Smith, the former chairman of Smith & Ouzman; Nick Smith, the sales and marketing director of the firm; Tim Forrester, its international sales manager; and Abdirahman Omar, an agent for the business.

The first hearing took place yesterday (23 October) at Westminster Magistrates’ Court with the next court appearance scheduled for 6 November at Southwark Crown Court.

A spokeswoman for Smith & Ouzman said: “We cannot comment on the allegations, which are entirely contrary to our principles of business conduct.”

Smith & Ouzman can trace its print history back to 1845. The 100-employee firm was number 248 in last year’s PrintWeek Top 500 with sales of £9.2m. It produces a wide range of specialist security print items including cheques, tickets, ballot papers, local currencies and other secure documents.

Proceedings continue.

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