White-collar Criminals Vulnerable

White-collar criminals vulnerable when bust

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Fraudsters who are caught may see suicide as the only alternative to the shame of doing time. Picture: ISTOCK

SUICIDE is a consistent consequence of crime. Despite this, I have dealt with hundreds of criminals over the years, and have lost only one suspect to suicide. Another one attempted to shoot himself, but shot his innocent best friend dead instead, as they scuffled for control of the firearm.

The horror of crime affects everybody who deals with it — from forensic investigators to distant relatives of the criminals.

The fraudsters committing and attempting suicide knew they had been committing crimes and would be caught in the end.

Most criminals do not steal to get rich — they steal to survive.

Most white-collar criminals are desperate people facing financial difficulties. Most fraudsters in SA are women aged 30-45. Many of them are divorced with children.

The bank statements of most fraudsters show that their standard of living improved after they became criminals — they shop at more upmarket shops, draw more cash from their bank accounts and begin to enjoy exotic travel.

Forensic investigators tend to bully suspects, when sensible communication does the job. It is very different conducting an investigation and interviewing potential suspects and sometimes requires firm questioning when interviewing a person who has been caught and knows it.

Investigators have a moral responsibility to deal with these situations sensibly, taking the suspect’s personal and family difficulties into consideration. A good forensic investigator will check — or know during questioning — whether suspects are lying or potentially exaggerating their situations.

The fact that a suspect has committed fraud does not give an investigator the right to bully them to the point of suicide. There is no death sentence in SA, and never was for this crime.

The suspect’s family is normally destroyed by this criminal behaviour, and we do not need to make it worse for them. On occasions, there are circumstances beyond our control, and we deal with these consequences as and when required.

When fraudsters are caught, they break down in many ways and their ability to make decisions is compromised severely.

Often, there is difficulty during the recovery phase of the investigation, as some criminals do not want to give up their ill-gotten gains and fight to the bitter end. These situations are dealt with differently, but do not require an investigator to declare hostilities on an innocent family.

When caught, criminals respond in diverse ways, and most of them are misguided.

Only a person in this situation can grasp the uncertainty and the value of the trust interested parties offer. People often detest themselves for their actions and this can sometimes drive them to a painful demise.

A strong family environment will support the accused, and their families have, in most cases, benefited from the crime.

Spouses can respond in different ways. They can turn a blind eye to their partner’s actions, while some are just as guilty, and others are completely oblivious.

It is also the investigator’s job to investigate the accused’s relatives’ knowledge of a crime and build an evidence package accordingly. Each case is different and the versatility of an investigative approach is crucial to solving these cases.

My forensic investigators and I always advise suspects to seek trauma counselling or similar assistance. We often supply options to people whose lives are entering a dark phase.

They may not be equipped to deal with the trial that will follow.

It is hard to convince someone who is going to serve time in prison that there are options that could save their loved ones a real psychological beating.

Michael Barker & Partners, a forensic investigations firm specialising in corporate crime.

Business Day – http://www.bdlive.co.za/opinion/2016/06/20/white-collar-criminals-vulnerable-when-bust