NEW opportunities have opened in the age of globalisation, allowing people, organisations and states to interact across national borders in a more sophisticated and speedy way. The age of globalisation and the growth of the world economy demand speed and accuracy, especially in business where time is money and only a few would be reluctant and ignorant enough to lose time and opportunities to compete to better their profit by the use of information technology.
However, everything has its price. In line with advancement of technology and all its attributes, many newly developed illicit acts are also accorded similar opportunities. In modern society, the most serious crimes such as organised crime, drug trafficking, corruption and economic crime are committed for the purpose of financial gains. Crime proceeds become a resource for further offence or are invested in legitimate businesses damaging fair economic competition. With the rapid progress of technology and globalisation, economic and financial crimes prevail nationwide and beyond national borders.
Every economic and financial crime is an acquisitive crime. The term ‘economic and financial crimes’ abounds with definitions. It is described as ‘any non-violent crime that generally results in a financial loss.’ Others describe it as ‘any non-violent, illegal activity which principally involves deceit, misrepresentation, concealment, manipulation, breach of trust, subterfuge or illegal circumvention.’
The genre incorporates a host of illegal activities: fraud, criminal breach of trust, corruption, tax evasion, smuggling, counterfeiting, money laundering, insider trading, market rigging, false trading, identity-theft-also known as phishing, company fraud, insurance fraud, credit card fraud, computer crimes fraud, etc.
It is not unfamiliar that several of these illegal activities are at times concomitant to one another. For example, corruption, insider trading or counterfeiting may lead to money laundering; or smuggling may go hand in hand with corruption. The probable transformation of such incidence appears endless.
Moreover, economic and financial crime is an outstanding pursuit. It is essentially a high reward and a very low-risk activity. The offence or financial loss is usually not discovered immediately thus giving the perpetrator time and opportunity to make his getaway or to spirit away fund to be concealed or dissipated. It is often a crime of the powerful or those in privileged positions. To be able to commit any forms of economic and financial crime, it is usually a requisite that there is access to a facility or opportunity which may suitably be exploited. Public outrage is often directed at the fact that those who commit such crimes are usually rich or in a high position. To protect the integrity of the social structure, public interest demands that the state’s machinery and legal framework are adequate and efficient to deal with such transgressions.
When the country’s resources are depleted or the allocation of which is distorted as a result of high incidence of economic and financial crimes, progress becomes slow and the people suffer. In a developing country, the livelihood of a vast cross-section of society may be jeopardised and their opportunity to basic economic development greatly diminished.
Sometimes economic and financial crimes lead to a dissipation of scarce resources. It only serves to condemn the country to remain under-developed for a long time to come, thus stifling its national aspiration to progress. The diversion of several millions of dollars may hardly have any tangible net effect on the economy of a developed country. However, in the case of a small developing nation, the implication will undoubtedly be far more serious. In the developed world, a high volume of business activity can present not just more opportunities for the perpetration of economic and financial crimes but also embezzlement of a larger scale. As a result, billions of dollar of investments are sometimes lost. This may in turn leads to bankruptcy and the lost. Many, thereafter, may face financial ruins.
Israt Tarique is a senior law officer, Agrani Bank Limited.
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