No smoke without fire?
That’s what the old saying would lead us to believe but it’s not always the case, of course. It’s what Greg Dyke is saying about Sepp Blatter’s resignation as President of FIFA this week and it’s often said when circumstances point to a particular conclusion. However, circumstantial evidence is not enough to convict someone of a crime. In order to do that, a full investigation must be made and the allegations must be proven or refuted.
When someone is accused of financial wrongdoing, lawyers working for both the defendant and the accuser bring in forensic accountants. The term forensic comes from the Latin forensis, meaning ‘of or before the forum’ and means to dissect and analyse findings to satisfy the public that the truth has been found. We tend to think of it in terms of physical evidence, such as fingerprints or pathology, but a financial forensic examination is just as exacting and uses similar methods, albeit in a different context.
So, as a forensics team at the scene of a crime would test for fingerprints and take photographs of the area to find out what had happened and who had been there, so a forensic accountant will examine the evidence he or she has uncovered to look at the extent of the malpractice, if that is indeed what it is.
In the case of Mr Blatter, who, it is rumoured, could be the next person to come under the legal microscope, he will no doubt be already preparing a robust defence against possible allegations of bribery and corruption. So it is with less public cases. If, for example, suspicion falls on an employee who regularly handles cash or is responsible for banking and the firm finds some money missing, he or she must mount a defence. If the circumstantial evidence looks bad, then that defence must be as robust as possible if the individual is to preserve their good name. It is in fact, only hard evidence that can refute the calls of ‘fire’.
Author: Roger Isaacs, 5 June 2015
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