Nothing beats evidence
Following news that Rolls-Royce has paid £671m this week to UK and US authorities to settle allegations of corruption, the Financial Times came up with a classic headline – ‘Fear the secret agent less than the accountant’. This may seem a slightly odd thing to say about the world of business espionage.
However Rolls-Royce found out to its cost the force of the statement as, although there had been rumours of bribery in countries such as China, Brazil and India, once it it had been the subject of what the FT describes as ‘a combination of accountancy and legal research’, it co-operated with the investigators and eventually agreed to a deal.
The Serious Fraud Office (SFO), which started its investigation in 2012, revealed 12 counts of conspiracy to corrupt or failure to prevent corruption in seven countries. The deferred prosecution agreement (DPA) it struck with the firm is only the third since they were introduced into UK law in 2014.
As the article says, much of what is called business intelligence is checking the facts, which incudes trawling through records and databases and following a money trail no matter where it leads. It also requires forensic accountants to sift through memos, instant messages and phone records to check that what has been hinted at is actually true. In fact, it is a painstaking and intricate task but one that is essential, as usually there is a huge amount of money and/or professional reputations at stake. In addition, had the case become a criminal prosecution, forensic accountants would have been appointed to act as expert witnesses and help to explain the financial intricacies
Author: Roger Isaacs, 23 January 2017