Too many cooks . . and none of them actually cooking!

| Author: Dick Smith [Member (F1520)] | Filed under: Case Studies
Too many cooks . . and none of them actually cooking!

Dick Smith QPM is the Law Enforcement Liaison Officer for the ABI. Here he provides us with a personal view of why reports of major fraud go largely rejected by the authorities.

“I am occasionally called on to assist in reporting major crime to law enforcement; mostly where one of our members has become aware of serious crime which their client wishes to be officially dealt with and offenders brought to book. To this end, I am blessed with police contacts; officers whose dedication to ‘getting the job done’ cannot be faulted. Nevertheless, they too come up against a system which for many years now, simply fails to function!

“In October 2020, on behalf of an ABI member, I referred a major international fraud to a high-ranking London contact. In this instance, it was complex corporate crime, damaging to both the tax systems of all EU countries and individual workers’ pension schemes alike. Nothing new there then! The litany of allegations, pointing to traceable culprits, with the guarantee of witness testimony, encompassed a multitude of facets. And there, of course, lay the problem . . . the charges revealed an array of institutions as victims, spread across far too many jurisdictions. For two months, it was punted around at the highest levels within law enforcement; yet not one agency in this country, nor in the EU [this was prior to 31st December, of course], was willing to investigate. None would risk a drain on their finances by shouldering the responsibility. There was no mechanism, and importantly no budget, for joining forces to engage. So, what was the ‘unofficial’ advice? ‘Blow the whistle. Go to the press and lay it on the doorstep of government.’

“Chris Greany of Templar Executives is a former police counter-fraud investigator and has long had reservations about the Action Fraud system. He reports {Professional Security – Jan 2021 } what all we former cops know: that police forces have ‘completely forgotten’ how to investigate fraud. He admits he has given up on a £10m cross-jurisdictional global fraud despite there being a bank’s evidence available. He has also been met with the all-too-common ‘lack-of-resources’ response from the police: that business can afford to take its own action against criminality. Do not most companies pay their taxes and should be expect protection? But even if we were to accept the police view that the commercial world is fair game for the crooks, what then could their possible excuse be for failing to investigate when public money is diverted?

“Perhaps the problem is that, in an effort to plug the ever-increasing gaps in countering crime, too many agencies have been set up. When I swore my constable’s oath of allegiance, [in an era when the service was lazy, unscientific, unethical and/or corrupt, as we are constantly brainwashed into believing], if a crime were committed, it was only the police who could receive the report and we were duty-bound to investigate and prosecute. If a crime report was ‘cuffed’ you risked being subjected to a rigid discipline procedure. To cry, ‘I don’t have the resources’ or, ‘It’s not my job,’ would have been met at best with derision, or at worse, with accusations of subversion.

“Crime was likewise rife then and terrorism even more commonplace; so let’s dispel any myths before they are submitted as excuses. But it was not until the nineties that we saw a change in emphasis; a change which in my mind started the rot. For the first time, there was politicisation of the police. The introduction of KPIs and ‘control by budget’ was introduced by the Home Office, obliging Chief Officers to prioritise. They were forced into abrogating their crime-combatting responsibilities and certain politically unattractive crimes dropped off the radar. One such, exacerbated by the parallel emergence of the cyber-age, was fraud, which required investigative expertise and was particularly resource-hungry in relation to man-hours. It became easy, indeed was encouraged, for those Chief Officers to disband their Fraud Squads and deskill their officers, freeing them up for more visible activity in the eyes of the press and the politicians.

"In the vacuum which was inevitably created, weird, wonderful, [and cheap] Federal-style outfits were invented, all to a blaze of publicity, massively under-funded, and mostly short-lived. But the mould had been broken and a full circle developed. The more crime the police refused to handle; the less money became available. As crime levels rose, and detection fell, the police were financially punished. If either the public or commerce tried to report fraud to the police, it was now de rigueur for officers to openly blame under-funding and respond, ‘Not my remit, chief. Go tell your MP!’

“There is now a myriad of ‘crime-fighting’ agencies, all claiming ever-narrowing bands of accountability. How many of us have actually ever heard of the Counter-Fraud & Investigations Service; a branch of the Government Internal Audit Agency? It was set up in 2016 and has recently proudly announced that it has so far ‘detected and prevented £4m worth of fraud.’ £4m in four years; at what cost, I wonder? And how many prosecutions? Hmm, can’t seem to find that! At the same time Mr Greaney’s single £10m case, or our tax and pensions fraud which dwarfs that almost into insignificance, don’t even warrant scrutiny!

“The Director General of the National Economic Crime Centre, is reported this month claiming that not every crime can be investigated because police are ‘going after the big hitters.’ Really? The evidence and ‘inside knowledge’ suggests very much otherwise.

“And there it is. Too many agencies, all with their fancy titles, none actually working in unison, and none biting the bullet for fear of the financial implication on their largely irrelevant and redundant territories.

“Reverting to that recent failed referral in London, some might consider that whilst taking the King’s shilling and yet refusing to do one’s duty is a form of corruption. John Penrose MP is the appointed ‘anti-corruption champion’. He is credited with having a grasp of the situation and quoted as saying, ‘No politician wants to be vulnerable to corruption, or even inefficiency with the public purse.’ He will, no doubt, have his work cut out addressing the billions lost to fraudulent bounce-back-loan and furlough schemes, which we know have been prevalent throughout the pandemic. Nevertheless, we are currently endeavouring to get our friends in the national media to knock loudly at his door and ask him some very pertinent questions. Watch this space!”

Dick Smith QPM
IP Forensics [GB]
ABI Law Enforcement Liaison Officer

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