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Forensic accountants – expert witnesses

Member: Nifa

As the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW) puts it, forensic accountants are the ‘detectives of the finance world’ and, like their sleuth counterparts in other sectors, they investigate allegations and seek to get to the truth of the matter. In addition, also like their peers in other criminal cases, they are often called upon to give evidence as expert witnesses and to explain to courts what has happened during the investigation that has led to someone being in the dock.

So it has been recently in the case of a suspended Canadian Senator, who has been accused of fraud, bribery and breach of trust. In his case, a forensic accountant retained by the Canadian Government to examine the defendant’s accounts has been asked to testify about the trial taken by the alleged $90,000 payment received by the defendant from the Prime Minister of Canada’s former Chief of Staff. Because of the complexity of the case, the forensic accountant also had to investigate the Senator’s other financial activities, such as the refinancing of his home at around the same time the payment was made.

During his testimony, the forensic accountant was asked what the online activities suggested to him as an expert. This can be a crucial part of an investigation. The forensic accountant in question will have worked on hundreds of similar cases and although he is concerned with facts and figures, he will also have accrued a huge amount of invaluable experience. In this case, the judge is considering whether to enter his testimony ‘as fact’ for the purposes of the trial.

Author: Roger Isaacs, 23 June 2015

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