Two former executives of printing company Smith & Ouzman have received the UK's first conviction for bribing foreign officials.
Smith & Ouzman's marketing director Nicholas Smith received a three year sentence for three counts of corruptly agreeing to make payments, while chairman Chris Smith was handed an 18-month suspended sentence for two counts of corruptly agreeing to make payments.
The bribes were given to Kenyan officials to influence the awarding of tenders for printing jobs. The case was dubbed “ChickenGate” because of the use of the word ‘chicken’ to mean ‘bribes’ in email exchanges linked to the case.
Both men have been disqualified from acting as company directors for six years.
SFO director David Green said: "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."
It is an important test case for the SFO, which has faced criticism for being toothless.
Barry Vitou, head of the global corporate crime team at Pinsent Masons, said: “The government and the SFO is determined to change the perception that being caught for white collar crime is going to only going to lead for a few months community service.”
He added: “Today’s sentence also makes clear that there is a willingness to take strong action against businesses of all sizes. The SFO is looking beyond household names and SMEs are now just as likely to find themselves on the receiving end of an investigation, and being smaller and less well resourced will not be accepted as an excuse.”