It's undeniable: We're living in a fast-moving world and technology is overtaking us. Money is moved from one country to the next at just the tap of an app on your phone. Assets can be stripped and moved across borders before you blink an eye. Fraud is happening in companies around the world every day. And according to independent consultant Guy Higgs, PgCert, CFE, CCEP-1, government enforcement is at an all-time high.
"Investigations are often hindered by international barriers," he explained to attendees at the 2018 ACFE Fraud Conference Europe. "But the bad guys don't have those barriers." As a result, investigators are often interdependent on help from their enforcement agencies.
Higgs covered challenges that investigators and fraud examiners might face when conducting investigations that cross borders or multiple jurisdictions with tips on how to overcome those challenges.
Cultural and language differences
Language and communication is an obvious inhibitor when conducting international investigations. Due to the complex nature of issues encountered during investigations overseas, investigators should have experience working in the relevant countries and should possess appropriate language skills. "If you have an investigation team that's multilingual — brilliant," said Higgs. "If you're multilingual, I'd like to employ you. It's absolutely vital that you have within your investigation team multilingual capabilities."
It's common for international investigations to include documents written or stored in several languages. Use techniques that will help you understand multilingual documentation. "There's loads of technology out there that can help you translate stuff very quickly," explained Higgs. "Store it correctly and keep your data collection protocols at the very highest level. Original documentation must be kept in its original state with at least two or three copies." He also recommends using court-approved professional translators, hiring external experts and/or using native speakers.
Access to information, data transfer and privacy controls
"Access to information is arguably the most difficult bit," said Higgs. "Privacy laws might restrict some access to information. Is it legal for somebody sitting in Germany to look at someone's Facebook in Pakistan? If you do not know, what should you do?" The answer: seek legal counsel.
"It is absolutely vital before you start [an investigation] to speak to your lawyers and say: 'What can I do? When can I do it? How can I do it?'" said Higgs. He recommends building a matrix of what you can and cannot do. "You can screw up an investigation in one second flat if you do something wrong." Make sure you have legal review the matrix and sign off on it every three to four months because rules change.
Finally, Higgs extolled the importance of continuously conducting risk assessments. This should not be confused with fraud risk assessments and should document risk areas throughout the life of the case.