My agreed to a number of side agreements with the customer

We agreed to supply company XYZ with eight kilos of product each month for one year. This was our first large contract and everyone was excited. The terms of the contract were okay, but not great. My partner said this was necessary to get started.

We shipped the first order and I called the customer to follow up. They were very pleased with the product. After 30 days they hadn’t paid. After 45 days we had shipped another order and still not payment. I called the customer again to see when he would pay. He said the agreement was 90 days credit, which surprised me because that wasn’t in the contract I saw. When I asked my partner, he said it was a verbal agreement and he had to do it to get the contract. We had to borrow money to bridge the payment period.

At the end of the six months, we got an invoice from the customer asking for his 7.5% override discount. I didn’t know what this was and my partner denied any knowledge of this. When I spoke to the customer, he said there was a side letter setting out these terms. He sent it to me and it had my partner’s signature on it.

Corruption: He told me to send 25% of the material cost to his personal account

I have a business based in my home country in Africa that currently imports materials from China, but I wanted to begin sourcing from the continent. I went to a neighboring country to negotiate a supply contract.

The owner was very friendly; he took me on a factory tour and for a wonderful dinner. We met again for breakfast and he talked about price and minimum orders. His price was 15% higher but the shipping cost was less; when I ran the figures through my head, there was still enough margin for my business. I told him we had a deal and we shook hands.

Then he told me how to submit the payment. He said to send 25% of the material cost to his personal account in the UK and not to show that on the invoice. I had no idea what to say or do! All I could think to say was that I needed to talk to my accountant to see if that was possible.

I knew what he is asking is illegal. I also know this is how business is done. I want to keep my business on the continent when possible. I’ve never encountered this before though and don’t know what to do. What will happen to me if anyone finds out?