LEFT OF CENTRE: Still very much on the radar
According to the most recent statistics available from the Royal Barbados Police Force (RBPF) website, there were 124 fraud-related crimes reported in 2011.
While there are no further statistics available on the website, it is likely safe to assume that, given the previous four years’ data with a peak of 209 such crimes in 2009 and a low of 95 in 2008, fraudulent criminal activity remains a serious cause for concern in Barbados.
However, while these so-called white collar crimes do not often garner the level of attention of some of the more sensationalized crimes such as drug-trafficking, murders and rapes, they are still very much on the Crime Stoppers radar.
Later this year when Barbados plays host to the 34th annual Crime Stoppers Conference, issues of payment card fraud, money laundering and corruption will be strategically targeted through half-a-day of presentations and workshops on financial crime.
In 2011, Crime Stoppers Barbados launched its Integrity Line with the expressed intention of aiding in the fight against corruption
and white collar crime. Some of the island’s major firms such as Goddard’s Enterprises, Super Centre Limited and Armstrong Agencies have already recognized the value of becoming subscribers to this service.
Like the main Crime Stoppers hotline, the Integrity Line is an anonymous and confidential service that allows employees to report any criminal activity and acts of wrongdoing that they know are taking place in their workplaces.
The types of activities that can be reported are: bribery, fraud, corruption, money laundering, embezzlement and misappropriation, sexual harassment, theft of company equipment and materials, and even using company equipment for personal gain.
All calls to this Integrity Line are answered by the Crimestoppers Call Centre in Canada and a transcript of the information received is sent in strictest confidence to the designated point of contact at the company/and or the RBPF for the appropriate action to be taken.
Crime Stoppers Barbados is of the firm belief that corporate entities in Barbados cannot afford to take the matter of white collar crimes lightly.
There is anecdotal evidence to suggest that some financial entities have failed to prosecute some of their employees and associates who have engaged in
such crimes for fear that these internal breaches could negatively impact on their reputation.
However, firm attempts must be made to rein in such crimes because they can have serious financial implications for all affected.
According to a 2010 Global Fraud Study conducted by the esteemed Association of Certified Fraud Examiners, the three major categories of occupational fraud found across 106 nations were financial statement fraud, asset misappropriation and corruption.
Combined, these white collar crimes cost, on average, over US$7 billion in losses in 2010 alone. No figures are available for Barbados but it is expected that with the increasingly high cost of living, desperate times will lead some people to resort to desperate measures, and the losses associated could be at a level that struggling companies can ill afford.
It was found that the majority of the fraud schemes identified by the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners in their survey were detected through employee tips. Therefore, it is important to empower employees with a mechanism by which they can effectively and anonymously become whistleblowers with integrity.
The Crime Stoppers Integrity Line is geared toward both the public and private sectors and therefore it is a tool that should not be overlooked in the fight against white collar crimes.