The term “white collar crimes” was first coined in 1939 by sociologist Edwin Sutherland in reference to crimes committed by persons of respectability and high social status who take advantage of their social, economic and technological power for personal gain. These crimes are characterized by deceit, concealment and violation of trust. These are financially motivated, usually committed by those with white collar jobs or those identified with the suit, shirt and tie set, as distinguished from blue collar workers doing manual labor.
Examples of white-collar crimes are embezzlement, securities fraud, insider trading, Ponzi and pyramiding schemes, identity fraud, cybercrimes and money laundering. Their detection, investigation and prosecution pose difficult challenges to the authorities because the perpetrators could be well-educated, with resources, influence and connections. These crimes could involve enormous amounts and could disrupt and cause tremendous losses to businesses. Based on my studies and long experience in the financial sector, I have identified five (5) common denominators in white collar crimes.
First, white collar crimes are committed by experts who are very familiar with all the technical complexities of their targeted transactions. They would be able to identify system weaknesses and loopholes which can be taken advantage of. Since they could be occupying responsible positions, they could enjoy the trust of their superiors thereby giving them more flexibility to operate their illegal schemes.
Second, white collar crimes are all premeditated and do not arise from mere impulse or by accident. They are well- planned and carefully executed to ensure success. At the outset, the elements of malice and intent to gain already come into play when the perpetrators come out with their scheme which could already include the fabrication and concealment of records, the diversion of funds, and the exit from the transactions.
Third, simultaneous with the commission, the perpetrators would already be covering their tracks. Their prime motive is to hide the transactions, avoid detection, and escape any liability. They could be aggressive in destroying records, bribing accomplices and in laundering the ill-gotten gains. Subsequently, investigators might be unable to find direct evidence and would have to be resourceful in gathering secondary or circumstantial evidence to prove the criminal trail.
Fourth, having access to a lot of resources, part of the planning by the perpetrators would be to build up a war chest with which they can avoid liability and conviction. They can retain expensive and smart legal advisers to delay and obstruct proceedings, engage in public relations to influence media, try to corrupt law enforcement and judicial authorities, and buy , threaten and even eliminate witnesses. As a side commentary, the Anti-Money Laundering Law will be useful in this regard because once a freeze order is issued on their assets, they will be financially disabled as they will be separated from their funds.
Fifth, chances for the recovery of the stolen money are minimal. This is because along the way, the perpetrators have already splurged themselves through extravagant and luxurious lifestyles, characterized by fancy cars, fancy homes, fancy parties, fancy gifts, luxury vacations, regal jewelries, and even yachts.
Notwithstanding these factors, there have been many success stories of perpetrators finding themselves in jail. And the investigators, prosecutors and jurists behind these cases deserve commendation for their dogged diligence and dedication. Although the stolen money might not come back, they are still able to deliver the message that crime does not pay.
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The above comments are the personal views of the writer. His email address is [email protected]