Managing Partner of Martin Kenney & Co., Solicitors
“Fraud is alive and well in Canada,” wrote Jessica Lewis of the Canadian law firm Bennett Jones LLP in Financier Worldwide magazine this month. “It is thriving and fraudsters are innovating,” she said. “The ongoing boom in white-collar crime is partly the result of Canada’s lack of a uniform regulatory system and ineffective law enforcement.”
I agree. There are regulatory frailties in Canada, particularly the absence of Ultimate Beneficial Ownership (UBO) identification during corporate registration. These regulatory anomalies and loopholes need to be addressed. But fraud is also on the increase globally.
Whenever austerity measures are put in place, fraudsters come to the fore to prey on the desperate and needy (not to mention the greedy). The U.K., for example, recorded a whopping 25 percent increase in 2016 for reported fraud in general, much of this fueled by banking and online scams.
Policing and austerity
As Lewis alludes, law enforcement in Canada does not come out well in these situations. Similarly in the U.K., The Guardian reported that “….the police have not been interested in investigating such cases even though the losses have been as much as £25,000.”
On the face of it, the police appear to be neglecting their roles as investigators and prosecutors of those committing such crimes. The U.K.’s Prime Minister (and then Home Secretary) Teresa May, said only last year, “Fraud shames our financial system.” But I don’t believe that criticizing the police for their perceived failings really touches on the root of this problem. It’s a much larger issue.
Most police forces across the Western world have borne the brunt of austerity measures imposed by their governments. The problem is that, as a consequence, they have inadequate resources and frontline policing must take priority. The U.K. has seen its fraud squads dismantled and specialist fraud investigators deployed elsewhere.
Investigating fraud is a highly specialized discipline, requiring significant training and ongoing courses designed to try to ensure that concerned detectives keep pace with a highly dynamic crime that is constantly evolving. In particular, fraud perpetrated by cyber criminals is extremely difficult to police. Not only does it require an added expertise that only few detectives possess, it also introduces cross-jurisdictional issues typically associated with this form of deception.
Fraudsters are not stupid. They understand that if they are in Russia, the Ukraine or China (for example), then attacking victims in other countries, such as the U.K., Canada or the U.S., makes perfect sense. By inserting the buffer of international borders, there is little likelihood of Western law enforcement agencies receiving sufficient levels of cooperation required to bring the culprits to book (especially given the current political climate).
Sadly, there is little prospect of this status quo changing anytime soon. The political differences make for uneasy relationships between the law enforcement agencies concerned. This means that criminals operating out of the Eastern Hemisphere can effectively attack their Western victims online with impunity. If we add to the mix the realistic prospect of corruption and its impact on the overall scenario, it is obvious why Eastern bloc criminals are confident in their doubtful activities going unhindered. They can simply pay off local law enforcement officers (who should be apprehending them).
Law enforcement agencies (and police in particular) are being blamed for failures to investigate fraud. In an ideal world, police forces would be able to open a “new box of detectives” and deploy them as demand requires. Unfortunately, this is not the case. So until there is a reinvestment in the police, fraud will continue to grow and go unpunished.
Martin Kenney is Managing Partner of Martin Kenney & Co., Solicitors, a specialist investigative and asset recovery practice based in the BVI and focused on multi-jurisdictional fraud and grand corruption cases. Mr. Kenney was recently selected as one of the Top 40 Thought Leaders of the Legal Profession in 2017 by Who's Who Legal International. He is the only fraud and asset recovery lawyer included in this list of thought leaders drawn from 16 different practice areas.