Liaising with law enforcement agencies

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Liaison between investigators and law enforcement agencies may not be required for every case of fraud, but collaboration is necessary from time to time, especially in international or highly complex cases.

But why is it important for organisations using fraud investigators to ensure their chosen experts are experienced in collaborating with law enforcement agencies? And how can private and public institutions work together in the most effective way to guarantee successful outcomes from investigations?

Crossing borders

The requirement for fraud investigators to work alongside law enforcement agencies arises when fraudsters or other criminals operate across geographical borders and multiple legal systems. Those committing crimes don’t respect country borders – and in fact use the variability between national law enforcement agencies and legal systems to move stolen funds around the world, making them more difficult to trace.

Multi-country agencies such as Europol go so far, but don’t have the remit to operate outside of the region they represent. By contrast, private sector investigators are not limited by any borders or boundaries and can operate anywhere in the world, as long as they abide by applicable regional laws and regulations.

This means the private sector can help public sector agencies investigate fraud and criminal activity across multiple countries. And being highly focused on investigating corporate crime means that private sector organisations invest heavily in tools and technologies, such as e-discovery or investigation management systems. Such investments may be less of a priority for law enforcement, which has a much wider remit.

Law enforcement agencies can leverage the investment that third parties make in technology, as well as their skilled professionals, who are in a position to operate more freely across borders. Meanwhile, private sector agencies can also benefit from working with law enforcement bodies, who have legal powers and the ability to bring public prosecutions. 

This last point explains why it is only in the minority of cases in which private and public agencies collaborate. Law enforcement will only tend to be involved when there is a matter of public interest, or when the public are being affected in a negative way. 

The motivation for fraud investigators tends not to be to protect the public, but to find out who perpetrated a crime and what has happened to the assets they have stolen. If an incidence of fraud or other crime does not impact the public, then it’s unlikely that law enforcement will be called in at all. 

Talking the same language

Having established the mutual benefits of private and public sectors working together, why is it important for investigators to have proven experience of collaborating with law enforcement? The answer is that while motivations for achieving successful investigations may differ, both parties want the same result – a successful prosecution of the perpetrator.

This means both public and private agencies need to use the same set of rules to gather and protect evidence that will be used to prove a case. If an inexperienced investigator collects a paper document from a suspect’s desk but fails to follow the correct chain of custody procedures by putting it into a sealed evidence bag, with a correctly completed form, then it will be impossible to prove in a court case who had the document and where it came from. 

Rules used for criminal investigations apply to fraud investigations by private companies as well, even if the evidence being collected is paper or electronic media based, rather than a fingerprint or a weapon. 

Organisations employing firms to undertake fraud investigations need to know that individual investigators have full knowledge of the correct chain of custody and its importance, and that they can speak the same language as law enforcement officers. They also need to be confident that investigators have the experience to work with those officers in a relationship of mutual trust, respect and professionalism.

Knowledge of working in multiple regions is useful too, as the balance between private and public agencies varies from country to country. Knowing how to best interface with a regional law enforcement agency in the Middle East, Israel, UK, USA and Russia, for example, can only come from experience.

Collaboration beyond individual cases

Close liaison with law enforcement agencies has existed in one form or another since third-party investigation firms began to emerge in the 1980s. It has grown and intensified over the years, driven by the ever-more complex world of cybercrime, in which collaboration becomes more and more vital. 

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