Collaboration key to fighting financial crime, conference hears

30 Nov 18

Public and the private finance professionals across the globe need to collaborate to fight “innovative” criminals, a European event on fraud in the digital age heard.

Speakers at the event in Brussels on Tuesday – at different sessions – agreed that in the digital age collaboration was crucial in fighting fraud.  

Angela Foyle, BDO partner and head of financial crime, said: “[Working together] is a really crucial aspect [to fighting fraud] – put together what the banks see, what the lawyers see and what the accountants see, and then we might have a better picture of how these criminals are working.”

She explained: “We all have separate pieces of the jigsaw”.

Foyle believed that “when you are only looking through your own lens” you might miss out on aspects of the case that would be “obvious” to others.

According to the European Parliament, more than $2.8trn in illicit funds flows through the global financial system but only 0.2% is ever recovered.

Accountancy Europe, which hosted the event, has also claimed that €120bn is lost to financial crime and money laundering every year.

Rachel Sexton, partner and head of financial services and forensic at EY, told delegates to remember that “no one is more innovative than the criminals”.

“When they are committing crime and they are moving money around, it is their business and they spend every day innovating and thinking about how they can avoid getting detected.

“Every time we come up with controls and frameworks, they innovate. It’s not a side business for them. And we need to figure out how we can change to combat that.”

Because of this, she said, it is important for professionals to join forces across sectors, to be as innovative as the “criminals”.

In a keynote speech, Anthony Harbinson, Northern Ireland director for safer communities, said that because fraud is borderless, it is “even more complex”.

“Across government, the public sector, the private sector and even the third sector, need to have a shared understanding of the mutual threat,” he said.

After the event, Harbinson told PF International that public sector accountants in particular have many important skills that can help fight fraud but they need to “look beyond the money” and “protect data”.

Laure Brillaud, from Transparency International, also said at the event that there is a “lack of collaboration between all the stakeholders” in fighting fraud across the globe.

Speakers at the conference highlighted the UK as an example of where collaboration to fight fraud was working well.

The UK has recently set up the National Financial Crime Agency, which brings together the public and private sector, with the aim to tackle fraud and crime.

The event also highlighted that there needs to be further efforts to join forces across borders, as criminals are working internationally. 

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