The slow rot of the private and public sector
Since the early 2000s, there have been numerous news reports in South Africa indicating that white collar crime is on the rise. From 2014, despite police statistic reports indicating an 11% decrease in economic crimes, independent studies conducted by PwC indicate a burgeoning increase in fraud, money laundering, corruption, collusion and bribery by senior management in companies and by politicians in high ranking government positions.
South Africa has the potential to increase the number of its successful prosecutions if a greater emphasis is placed on the importance of prosecuting white collar crimes.
Economic crime is constantly evolving and becoming a more complex issue for organisations and economies. In South Africa, more than two thirds of South African organisations have experienced economic crime. The overwhelming cause of the increase in white collar crimes is that detection methods are not keeping pace, local law enforcement agencies place little to no emphasis on white collar crime, bundling together a broad range of illicit activity, including insider trading and credit card fraud together with public procurement fraud and private sector corruption, and there is a general failure to prosecute and punish these crimes effectively. Further, many individuals facing charges of fraud, corruption, money-laundering or insider-trading have the ability to delay prosecution by launching numerous appeals and other actions. This accompanied by South Africa’s back-logged High Court system, the inability of the National Prosecuting Authority (The NPA) to prosecute economic crimes and the poor levels of investigation by police services, in no way serves to deter individuals from committing such crimes.
The Ontario Securities Commission (OSC) has launched the Office of the Whistleblower and published OSC Policy 15-601 Whistleblower Program effective July 15, 2016. Together, these initiatives establish a new whistleblowing program that offers financial awards of up to $5 million for tips on possible violations of Ontario securities law that lead to enforcement action.
The OSC program allows whistleblowers to make anonymous reports to the OSC, and new protections have been enacted for whistleblowers that access the program. In particular, the Securities Act has been amended to add anti-reprisal provisions protecting employees who have sought advice about, expressed an intention to or actually provided information about a possible securities violation to the OSC. In addition, the Act invalidates gag or confidentiality provisions or agreements that would otherwise silence or prevent whistleblowers from participating in an investigation.
The international landscape on the law with respect to whistleblowing is changing dramatically and quickly. The Supreme Court of Canada is the first national high court in the world to recognize and protect the role of whistleblowers, their identity, and immunity, from disclosure and criminal prosecution. In its decision involving the World Bank Group, it addressed the subject of whistleblower immunity in an international case.
The opening paragraph of the Supreme Court Judgment, delivered by Justices Moldaver and Cote, reads as follows:
“Corruption is a significant obstacle to international development. It undermines confidence in public institutions, diverts funds from those who are in great need of financial support, and violates business integrity. Corruption often transcends borders. In order to tackle this global problem, worldwide cooperation is needed. When international financial organizations, such as the appellant World Bank Group, share information gathered from informants across the world with the law enforcement agencies of member states, they help achieve what neither could do on their own”.
This week, White Collar Post features a guest post from internationally known compliance and anti-corruption expert Marc Y. Tassé.
While the leaks continue from the “Panama Papers”, continuing to make headlines around the world, and as the related scandals intensify, there have been numerous articles written on the whole topic. My following comments and remarks take under consideration and outline some of those and my own comments.
The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists obtained millions of documents showing heads of state, criminals and celebrities using secret hideaways in tax havens.
- Files reveal the offshore holdings of 140 politicians and public officials from around the world
- Current and former world leaders in the data include the prime minister of Iceland, the president of Ukraine, and the king of Saudi Arabia
- More than 214,000 offshore entities appear in the leak, connected to people in more than 200 countries and territories
- Major banks have driven the creation of hard-to-trace companies in offshore havens
Offshore banking is not in itself illegal, and those named in the “Panama Papers” should not automatically be presumed to have done anything wrong, but history has shown that secrecy attracts those with something to hide. The offshore banking system is being abused for illicit purposes such as tax evasion and money laundering resulting from corruption.
On April 1, 2016, the Competition Bureau and the Public Prosecution Service of Canada (PPSC), formerly the Federal Department of Justice, secured their ninth guilty plea in the Bureau’s years-long investigation of the Japanese auto parts industry. .The Showa Corporation—a Japanese manufacturer and supplier of auto parts—pleaded guilty in Court to one count of bid-rigging under section 47 of the Competition Act. The Showa Corporation was sentenced to pay a fine of $13 million—the second largest fine ever ordered by a Canadian court for a bid-rigging offence.
In 2006 through to at least 2011, the Las Vegas Sands hotel and casino corporation transferred funds totaling more than $62 million to a “consultant” in China to promote their interests.
Lacking supporting documentation for appropriate authorization and identity, the money trail raised a red flag for the Department of Justice (DOJ) in the United States. This led to an investigation under the authority of Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), as well as an investigation carried out by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), since the Sands is traded on the New York Stock Exchange.
Since the Sands management could not account for the funds transferred to the consultant, bribery was inferred. This lack of controls extended to other transactions, including gifts and entertainment to foreign officials, employee and vendor expense reimbursement, and customer complimentary services.
The Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada (FINTRAC), the federal agency responsible for the detection, prevention and deterrence of money laundering and terrorist financing, has, for the first time, imposed an administrative monetary penalty on a Canadian bank. The penalty of more than $1.1-million comes at a time of increased scrutiny of Canadian financial institutions and financial transactional crime as a result of the publication of the Panama Papers.
The enforcement efforts of the Ontario Securities Commission (OSC), the regulator that administers and enforces compliance with the provisions of the Securities Act (Ontario) and the Commodity Futures Act (Ontario), have had mixed success— at best. With a mandate to protect investors and ensure fair and efficient capital markets through monitoring compliance and enforcement measures in the securities industry in Ontario, the regulatory body has been struggling to be taken seriously. Having taken a chapter from the playbook of the American national Securities Exchange Commission (SEC), prosecuting individuals for Insider trading, tipping, and securities fraud, the initial results, which are highlighted below, were underwhelming. Now, in a renewed effort to assert its presence in the capital markets as a regulator with teeth, the OSC is taking new approaches, with more promising results.
Despite internal safe guards and the best efforts of mining companies and their executives, criminal investigations can arise in relation to operations at home or abroad. How a company responds to a criminal investigation or to possible internal criminal misconduct, can have a serious legal and reputational impact, particularly since changes to Canadian law have made it easier for prosecutors to convict corporations and their officers of criminal wrongdoing. Today at Fasken Martineau’s PDAC 2016 seminar, Peter Mantas and Norm Keith of Fasken Martineau and Sandy Boucher of Grant Thornton discussed how proactive a mining company should be during the critical period after suspected criminal wrongdoing is discovered.
Although white collar crime is a worldwide phenomenon, in South Africa it tends to stand out as being particularly prevalent. White collar crime is a growing menace to businesses in and around South Africa. More and more senior managers are being involved in fraudulent schemes and activities. In addition, the sophistication and complexity in the way white collar crimes are carried out are on the rise.
One of the major catalysts of white collar crime in South Africa is that the perpetrators know that they are unlikely to be caught. The lack of investigation and prosecution is a concern to businesses in South Africa. How much protection will they receive if they do fall victim to white collar crime? Investigators of white collar crime attempt to put together dockets, with their attorneys’ assistance, which are then submitted to the National Prosecuting Authority. However, there is a lack of resources to facilitate prosecuting services in dealing with such complex crimes.