Money plays a pivotal role in many crimes. According to a report by the Telegraph in January 2017, online fraud, including identity theft is now the most common crime in the UK. Fraud comes in many forms, from small value thefts up to widespread corruption within global businesses. Legal cases involving financial crime can be very lengthy and complicated, with many strands of evidence to investigate. For this reason, many solicitors enlist assistance from an experienced forensic accountant. Forensic accounting expert witnesses can play a huge role in ensuring these cases run smoothly, the entire extent of the crime is investigated and the value of the crime is properly quantified.
Forensic accountants are fully trained, qualified accountants with years of experience. Some are accredited as Forensic Accountants by the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales; others are usually members of either the Academy of Experts or the Expert Witness Register. Their experience of financial and business practices means they are able to analyse and interpret large volumes of data, including documents, banking records and financial transactions.
Forensic accountants use their expertise in finance and accounting combined with their investigative ability to quantify or to challenge the amount of a claim. A forensic accountant with the relevant experience may also present evidence in court as an expert witness. Their insights can help determine the quantum of a financial claim in a diverse range of financial cases including criminal and civil fraud, insurance claims and funding terrorism.
The insight and support of accounting experts is invaluable to solicitors representing either the prosecution or the defence in financial cases. Many legal professionals do not have the time or the necessary expertise to build a case from financial evidence and require the services of a forensic accounting expert witness to make sense of the data. Forensic accounting usually refers to the whole process of investigating a financial crime matter, from gathering and analysing data, to interviewing parties involved and compiling a report.
There are many ways in which forensic accountants gather evidence in corporate fraud cases, and investigators generally use a combination of methods dependent on the case. This includes computer assisted audit techniques, which scan large volumes of data to look for anomalies. The computer assisted auditor will extract every single transaction the business performed during a set period, allowing the accounting expert to quickly locate areas for further investigation. Forensic accountants also collect evidence by reviewing documentation, counting cash, and conducting interviews with relevant parties. If appointed early in a case, the accountant can assist in determining the scope of the investigation.
The sheer volume of evidence handled in financial cases can mean the process of investigation and the subsequent trial can be a very long process. Earlier this year, a Scottish couple were found guilty of fraud after a 320 day trial, and the three longest UK court cases all involved fraud. Financial investigations are often complicated by problems such as falsified or destroyed documents, and forensic accounting experts have to take these potential flaws into account for their evidence to be persuasive in court.
Fraud cases are often complicated. Forensic accountancy experts are very skilled investigators who will assist solicitors throughout the entire timeline of the case. Whether you are dealing with a large scale corporate fraud investigation, a personal injury or fatal accident claim, a shareholder or partnership dispute or a matrimonial financial dispute, we can supply the right forensic accountancy specialist for your case through our extensive network of expert witnesses. Contact the Foresight team for assistance with your forensic accountancy and expert witness needs.