Aziz Rahman of Rahman Ravelli
Aziz Rahman, founder of leading serious business crime solicitors Rahman Ravelli, explains how to prevent and identify workplace crime.
Business crime may not be at the top of the agenda for many who earn their living in the commercial or professional world. To 99.99% of such people, such crime simply isn’t a priority.
And yet the problems and costs associated with a failure to prevent business crime can be both huge and damaging. Legal problems, financial harm and reputational damage can all be serious blows to a company. Such blows can put a company’s future at risk; depleting its customer base and its financial reserves.
If this sounds like theory rather than reality, check the media. 2017 saw a succession of major banks given massive fines for illegal business practices, huge energy, mining and resources companies suffer in the wake of bribery investigations and major names such as Tesco, Rolls-Royce and Airbus all probed as evidence came to light of wrongdoing on an enormous scale.
But companies can be masters of their own destiny. By taking steps to identify crime in their workplace – or even prevent it happening – they can avoid major problems.
During or after business crime investigations, we often hear a familiar mantra. A company that has been fined or prosecuted will go to great lengths to explain that the problems are now in the past and that the people or procedures that were to blame have been removed, in favour of all-new, legally-sound replacements.
In such cases, it is fair to assume that whatever measures had been in place to prevent business crime were not fit for purpose. If they had been, there would not have been a problem.
Companies can implement effective workplace crime prevention procedures just as they could introduce, for example, health and safety measures. If they are not sure what the risk of illegal activity is within their organisation, a legal specialist can assess the way a company works, identify the potential for wrongdoing and devise procedures to prevent crime, or at least identify it as early as possible. And the earlier such a problem is identified, the easier it is to manage.
We live in an era where it is no longer possible to turn a blind eye to business crime. In recent years, the UK has seen the arrival of the Bribery Act, tougher measures to tackle money laundering, stronger pressure on financial institutions to report their suspicions of criminal activity and more legislation to combat tax offences. At the same time, more money has been made available to the Serious Fraud Office (SFO), while the National Crime Agency (NCA) and Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) have been created.
No-one in business can afford to think they do not need to investigate suspicions of wrongdoing because nothing will ever reach the eyes and ears of the authorities. Business crime is high up the agenda of the UK government and its agencies are increasingly proactive in tackling it.
If companies do not want to investigate their workplace problems, or feel they lack the ability to do so, legal experts are out there who can seek evidence of wrongdoing and follow the evidence trail. They can also advise on the best course of action; whether it be reporting it to the authorities, bringing civil proceedings against individuals or bringing a private prosecution.
Those in business can, with a few carefully thought-out measures, go a long way to protecting themselves against workplace crime. And that can be a hugely important benefit to 100% of the business community.
Aziz Rahman is founder of Rahman Ravelli; a top-ranked business crime law firm in national and international legal guides.