The Role Of The Criminal Defence Forensic Accountant

Providing a clear and unambiguous explanation of complex or document heavy financial matters is the fundamental obligation of the forensic accountant in any criminal regulatory dispute or civil financial argument.

Unraveling Complex Financial Issues

Fully understanding the issues in a financial dispute is essential if the eventual outcome is to be fair. So often, civil or criminal litigation is a fight between two parties to get the best possible outcome. Any party that cannot explain its position in a way that is clear and readily understood is at a disadvantage.

Often in the cases that I am given to consider, the arguments being raised by the prosecution or claimant are not clear.  While there might well be a serious case to answer, hidden among the voluminous evidence being presented, it sometimes does not fully reflect the headline claims. Even those proposing the claims are not completely clear about the extent of their case, which can often leave a defendant frustrated when overblown accusations are being made.

Case Study: Extradition To Face Criminal Charges

I became involved in a long running extradition case following the collapse of the world oil prices in 2008. A major importer of oil ran into trouble following the worldwide credit problems leaving the transport and energy supplies of one country in disarray. The CEO of the local fuel import business was indicted on criminal charges that included fraud.

After examining the case, it was possible to see that the oil importer (like everyone else) had failed to predict the collapse of the oil price and even though it hedged all its deals it could not survive the slump and was forced to declare insolvency. Unfortunately it had released oil purchases being held by the government storage infrastructure before being in funds to settle with the suppliers.

However, the fact that government officials had released the oil without proper authority highlighted an equally serious problem within the public sector. This ultimately led to the corporate failure of my defendant’s multi-million pound business.

Rather than immediately acceding to the extradition demands, an understanding by the defence team of the wide ranging political, corporate and commercial issues allowed a robust defence to be maintained over a number of years resulting in a lower level of culpability being accepted by the defendant.

This case made the news worldwide with zealous reporters heralding headlines such as “… tycoon in $100 million fraud arrested…”

It was an interesting assignment in that it only involved a couple of dozen transactions, each worth several millions and each backed up by many hundreds of documents. This contrasts with other cases that I have dealt with that may have had equally sensational headlines, but instead involve many thousands of transactions each backed up only by one or two pieces of paper.

Understanding The Issues Is Key To Getting Forensic Accounting Value

Many of my assignments are undertaken on behalf of a criminal defendant. Splitting services between working for the defendant and helping the prosecuting regulators is natural for an independent and unbiased expert witness like me. However, it is not the same as for a lawyer who, in separate matters, also acts for both the prosecution and the defence. They take their instructions from the client and try to win the case.

A Forensic Accountant wants to help…By Facilitating A Fair Result!

Mine is not the task of winning, or getting the “best” possible outcome. Instead, I want to get the “right” outcome. By this I mean the views and findings expressed in my forensic accountant’s report are balanced and non-partisan. It is the only way such a report can provide any value to the Court. Opinions must be based on the facts, speculation must be excluded and assumptions limited where possible. If a lengthy matter can be distilled into a few words that can be accepted by both sides in an argument, the outcome is more likely to be fairer than the initial claim or indictment suggested. The “right” outcome is more likely to help a defendant and ought to satisfy the regulators!

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