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REGINA V Christopher Smith, Nicholas Smith, Timothy Forrester, Smith & Ouzman Limited. Critical News, 4th January 2015

Posted by Business in Ghana on January 5, 2015

Sydney Casely-Hayford, sydney@bizghana.com

Happy New Year to all of us. By some quirky calculation we have learnt by imposition that our lives carry from one 365-day block to the next and we age as that time crosses. Logic argues that time is a continuum and not block spaces, because if it were so, many of us would find a way to jump off a segment and wait for the next chunk. But it is too early after the X’Mas break for us to get heavy with science.

I started the holiday with plans of rest and constructive laziness to not complete any assignments. With unstable power supply and the continuous search for water, my excuse would relax and deploy all financial resources to quiet time and needless reflection.

Then the ECG had to hear JDM’s plea and give us plenty light. It was fortuitous that manufacturing closed down for the period and I am sure they diverted the unused power to us domestics to waste as needed. So I had to work, make best use of the constant supply and usher in another year.

The Volta Lake is low and getting lower by the day. We use approximately 0.05feet a day and with no rains in sight till June July, we will be as close if not lower than the minimum level if it continues. So be guided by the Scout motto.

Power is going to be a big issue again in 2015 and beyond. Whatever you hear from Government, be better advised by what you observe. The rationing will intensify after the Xmas gift.

At the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) in the UK, Smith and Ouzman Ltd and two employees were convicted 22nd December at Southwark Crown Court as a result of an investigation into corrupt payments made for the award of business contracts to the company.

The corrupt payments totalling £395,074 were made to public officials for business contracts in Kenya and Mauritania as well as Ghana.

The company, Smith and Ouzman Ltd, a printing firm based in Eastbourne which specialises in security documents such as ballot papers and certificates, was convicted of three counts of corruptly agreeing to make payments, contrary to section 1(1) of the Prevention of Corruption Act 1906.

Christopher John Smith, chairman of Smith and Ouzman, age 71, from East Sussex, was convicted of two counts of corruptly agreeing to make payments.

Nicholas Charles Smith, sales and marketing director of Smith and Ouzman, age 43, from East Sussex was convicted of three counts of corruptly agreeing to make payments.

Timothy Hamilton Forrester, international sales manager of Smith and Ouzman, age 57, from East Sussex was acquitted of all three counts of corruptly agreeing to make payments.

Mr Abdirahman Mohamed Omar, a sales agent for Smith and Ouzman, age 38, from London, was acquitted of one count of corruptly agreeing to make payments in relation to a contract in Somaliland.

Director of the SFO, David Green CB QC commented:

“This is the SFO’s first conviction, after trial, of a corporate for offences involving bribery of foreign public officials. Such criminality, whether involving companies large or small severely damages the UK’s commercial reputation and feeds corrupt governance in the developing world. We are very grateful to the Kenyan authorities for their assistance in this case.”

The West African Examinations Council (“WAEC”) is responsible for the conduct of public examinations in Ghana and its duties include commissioning the printing of examination certificates and plastic envelopes.

Thomas Dalu was the head of procurement until July 2009, when AR Abdul-Razak took up that post. The Finance director then was called Mr Binai.

S&O had a commercial relationship with the WAEC and during the indictment period was awarded contracts to print examination certificates and plastic envelopes to the value of £272,407.

As in Kenya, S&0 retained an agent in Ghana. Initially this was Ebenezer William Amarteifio, known as Bill. Christopher Smith stated in interview that Bill Amarteifio had worked for S&O since 1993. Initially S&O retained him during the indictment period, and renewed his agency agreement with S&0 on 13/3/09.

By May 2009, such was the dissatisfaction with his performance, that he was replaced by a new agent called Elliot Agyare. The main reason, the prosecution suggest, that Agyare was recruited was that it was discovered that Amarteifio had not been paying bribes to WAEC officials.

S&O continued to deal with Amarteifio but when Elliot Agyare was appointed, the first thing he was required to do by the defendants was to pay the WAEC officials their bribes.

On the 28th January S&O invoiced WAEC for the supply of examination certificates. The invoiced amounts were £85,724.12 and £85,246.19. On the 16th February 2009 S&O drafted a tender bid response for the supply and delivery of scannable forms and plastic envelopes. S&O secured the contract and invoiced WAEC for the goods on 9/4/09 in the sum of £99,422.27.

On 4/8/09 S&O received a payment of £272,407.28 in payment for these contracts. Timothy Forrester took the lead on securing business with the WAEC during the indictment period.

His name was on the February tender as having power of attorney on behalf of S&0. On 11/3/09 he emailed Bill Amarteifio, copying in Christopher and Nicholas Smith, informing Amarteifio that Razak at the WAEC had told him that price was not the only factor which would determine the outcome of the bid, and that the quality of the submitted samples was important. He asked Amarteifio to try and ensure that as many of a competitor’s samples (Trent) were disqualified as possible by the WAEC IT department.

By 27/5/09 S&0, having secured the contract, had raised a shipping invoice. On 19/6/09 Timothy Forrester emailed Amarteifio to say that original shipping documents were being sent to Razak at the WAEC. He added “I would like to remind you that commission will be payable provided that payment is received in our account prior to July 3rd. I trust that the issue of payment will be handled in an appropriate manner with respect to the WAEC personnel involved.” The prosecution suggested that this must be a reference to the payment of bribes to WAEC officials.

In July 2009, after Elliot Agyare’s appointment as S&O’s agent, he went to meet officials at WAEC on 22/7/09. Timothy Forrester emailed Christopher Smith on 23/7/09, reporting what Agyare had told him. “Razak is now head of procurement. I believe this is excellent news for us and I immediately rang Razak to offer my congratulations.” He also reported that there was a “big problem between Bill [Amarteifio] and the director of Finance, the details of which will come out during my visit.” Christopher Smith replied, “Bill used to pally with Binai (finance director) but it has been cool this year. Probably lack of grease.” Forrester replied “Bill probably made promises to Binai that weren’t kept.”

Timothy Forrester went to Ghana and met with the S&O agent Agyare and with the recently promoted WAEC head of procurement, Razak. In an email to Christopher and Nicholas Smith, on 3/8/09 he stated, “the meeting was very constructive both in terms of understanding the recent past and how to proceed in the future.” He was critical of Bill Amarteifio’s failure to pay bribes. “Bill has not made any ‘expression of appreciation to anyone in WAEC below HNO level during Razak’s three years employment there ….. The tender system on OMR forms and plastic envelopes was introduced specifically to circumvent Bill’s lack of co-operation ….. in order to safeguard our long term interests, I believe that we need to retain some portion of the commission due to Bill on the funds recently paid so that Elliot can do the needful with Razak and other key employees.”

The dissatisfaction on the part of the defendants with Bill Amarteifio’s performance related to his failure to pay bribes or ‘grease’ as Christopher Smith referred to it. They regarded Amarteifio as old and past his best. The perception of all three S&O executives was that the failure to pay bribes had resulted in a lower level of business with WAEC than would otherwise be the case, and that payment was being delayed because of the absence of bribes, particularly to middle level management. The defendants’ usual method was to pay bribes after receipt of payment for the contract to which the bribes related. This was an incentive to the corrupt officials to pay S&O what they were due and increased the prospect of future business.

What is striking about the exchanges between the defendants in sorting out this problem is that none of them raised the illegality of what they proposed.

They were all prepared to bribe corrupt officials to secure the business.

Smith and Ouzman are in the business of printing ballot papers and certificates. The case in Kenya involved ballot papers for their election. They will be sentenced on 12 February 2015.

And this is how we open 2015 and remember the Ides of Mabey & Johnson.

Ghana, Aha a ye din papa. Alius atrox week advenio. Another terrible week to come!

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One Response to “REGINA V Christopher Smith, Nicholas Smith, Timothy Forrester, Smith & Ouzman Limited. Critical News, 4th January 2015”

  1. S B ACKAH said

    When the wise speaks nations listen. What we lack us AFRICAN is for us to forecast what is next. This is an opportunity for those organizations involve to better up thier systems and service in other to maximise satisfaction and development

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