by Marlon Madden
A lack of evidence and corroboration have been identified as the main hindrances to the investigation and prosecution of individuals accused
of fraud, one law enforcement officer has revealed.
According to Station Sergeant Dudley Waldron, while the police might sometimes be unable to recover misappropriated funds or property,
they are still able to prosecute an individual, but it requires evidence which he said “is sometimes a hurdle that you have to get over”.
“Because you have been affected by fraud and just reporting it to the police this may not be sufficient. You will have to get evidence to support what you are reporting. Furthermore, no recovery of the misappropriate funds or property can be done by the Barbados Police Service. So when you look at what we can do, we can put offenders before the court and then you will have your day at court where it will be decided upon who comes out the winner, so to speak,” said Waldron.
He explained that once an individual or company has been deceived, a report would be made to the police by the affected individual or a complainant on behalf of the company and this would be followed by an investigation by law enforcement.
He said while it was often easier to prosecute a case when it involved an individual, the same could not be said when it involved a government department or private sector entity. Waldron explained that the complainants are often required to present relevant evidence that could include bank statements, cheques, receipts, invoices or vouchers.
“So you need to have the documentation to support what you are alleging and that is when I talk about the burden of proof, that he who alleges must prove beyond a reasonable doubt . . . when you think about investigation, if you are reporting that your money has been stolen for example, you need to corroborate that by some person else, not just only you saying it,” said Waldron.
However, he said the difficulty in prosecuting an alleged offender often comes down to the lack of evidence or the lack of willingness by some, especially financial institutions, to provide the necessary information.
“Sometimes this is where the difficulty can begin because when you think about corroboration, sometimes the information you want, some people can hide behind the fact that it might be privileged or confidential information, and that might be information [which is] key towards providing what is being alleged by the complainant,” he explained.
“So sometimes the cooperation in the investigative process is where fraud investigations can begin to get difficult,” he said, while adding that it could “get tricky” if supporting documentations were needed from more than one institution.
“It is at this [stage] where we might have to get production orders from the court in order to ask the bank to disclose that information which would be required in a matter such as a bounced cheque for example,” said Waldron. He noted that with advancements in technology and fraudsters being more creative, it was getting even more difficult to get supporting documents or witnesses to come forward.
“It can get a whole lot more complicated because you might think that you are looking for John Brown when in truth and in fact that is not the person you are looking for because the [culprit] is a person who stole an identity,” he explained.
“These things do happen where persons are able to get a cheque and sometimes these are government cheques that persons get hold of, and the persons can scan these cheques and change the name on them and the identification numbers and go to the corner shops or supermarket,”
he pointed out.
Waldron was addressing a recent CreditInfo Barbados Ltd. information session that was held under the topic Credit Reporting, Data Protection
and Fraud Prevention.
He warned participants that fraud had the potential to “erode an entire life savings and it could also cause businesses to collapse”, while adding
that trust, understaffing and lack of auditing were some of the factors that “support fraud”.
He said while not exhaustive, for fraud to take place the offender must also have a perceived need that is either real or is a greed, a perceived opportunity and rationalisation.