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Member: Nifa

The sheer number of forensic investigations into potential financial wrongdoing in the media has brought the work of forensic accountants into the public domain. Therefore, it is of little surprise that forensic investigators will be key in a forthcoming US film called The Accountant. In the movie, actor Ben Affleck plays an accountant who combines the day job with some ‘extra-legal’ bookkeeping for “some of the world’s most dangerous criminal organisations”.

However, according to the plot notes, forensic accountants from the Treasury department – or HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) as it would be here – are soon hot on his trail, so he decides to lie low and take on a legitimate client; this is where the trouble starts and the body count rises.

Of course, a forensic investigation in real life is rarely so dangerous for those trying to prove criminality but criminals are rightly nervous when these experts start looking into their finances, as they are aware of how hard it is to obscure a money trail. In one case in the papers recently a forensic accountant explained to the court how a man accused of fraudulently obtaining money for goods he didn’t deliver had deposited cash and then transferred it almost immediately to a joint account he held with his former girlfriend and then onto betting chain Ladbrokes.

As the accountant said, the obvious conclusion to the investigation was that the cash transferred to Ladbrokes was payment from customers who were expecting goods in return for their payments. Unfortunately, it appears as if they were defrauded along with many others and there was a £60,365 shortfall that the defendant failed to explain.

In cases such as these, the forensic accountant builds up a picture of where money has come from and where it has ended up and then is often called upon to give evidence as an expert witness.

Author: Roger Isaacs, 13 June 2016

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