Increase in business-related crime

Amount misappropriated from businesses declined year on year from $5 million to $3.55 million

 

NASSAU, BAHAMAS – The Royal Bahamas Police Force (RBPF) reported a more than 300 per cent increase in business-related crime in 2018 compared to the previous year, recording 343 more reported incidences.

Despite the stark increase in the number of incidences and people charged, the amount misappropriated from businesses declined year-on-year from $5.08 million in 2017 to $3.55 million in 2018, according to data provided yesterday by Assistant Commissioner Paul Rolle, who heads the RBPF’s Anti-Corruption Branch and Financial Crimes Investigation Unit.

According to statistics released by the RBPF last week, crimes against businesses that were reported resulted in 247 arrests.

One-hundred and twenty-four of those individuals arrested were charged.

The statistics did not include monetary values for financial crimes.

The top method of misappropriating funds through businesses was by way of fraud, with 68 people arrested in 2018.

Rolle revealed that $1.44 million was defrauded in 2018.

In 2017, 35 people were arrested for fraud.

In 2016, 57 people were arrested for fraud-related offences.

Last year, “stealing by reason of employment” accounted for $1.15 million and saw 79 people arrested in connection with more than 100 reported matters.

This is more than double the 31 arrests in connection with “stealing by reason of employment” in 2017.

In 2018, 36 people were arrested for “stealing by reason of service”, where nearly $1 million was defrauded.

In 2017, 23 people were arrested for “stealing by reason of service”.

Meanwhile, forged documents last year resulted in 26 arrests, stemming from 36 matters.

There was not a dollar value provided for this category.

Sixteen people were arrested for forged documents in 2017, whereas 112 people were arrested in 2016.

Forty-five people were charged last year for money laundering offences, which accounted for just over $3 million.

During the same period, authorities confiscated over $2.7 million in cash seizures, an increase over the $1.03 million seized in 2017.

Another $449,708 accounted for cash forfeitures as a result of proceeds from crime cases from the previous year that were concluded in 2018.

Additionally, authorities seized $1.8 million as a result of proceeds of crime.

Of the 14 incidences, 13 matters remain pending before the courts.

Another $208,367 was seized, stemming from nine incidences of attempted exportation of restricted goods

More than $80,000 for forfeited to the state.

Another two cases remain before the courts.

A total of $674,969 was seized as a result of false declarations of failures to declare.

Of that, $531,716 was forfeited to the state. Three matters were pending before the courts.

There were also 101 suspicious transaction reports (STR) made to FIU last year, up from the 60 STRs reported in 2017.

“Even if you are making large deposits [by] cheque you have to declare the source of those funds to satisfy the compliance officer,” Rolle pointed out.

“You can’t just take a cheque for $100,000 and say you sold your land.

“You should have a copy on the conveyance to show that you sold the land to satisfy them.”

Last year, Parliament passed the Proceeds of Crime Bill, which provides for “unexplained wealth orders” to be made, which can be used for the forfeiture of ill-gotten gains.

The overarching objective of the legislation was to strengthen and modernize cross border cooperation and prosecution related to money laundering, terrorist financing, corruption, among other crimes.

“I think Bahamians ought to make themselves aware of the legislation and how it affects them, so they do not lose their cash, as the intent really is to keep dirty money out of the system,” Rolle said.

 

Bank fraud trend

Rolle said his unit has observed an uptick of banking customers being defrauded and employees stealing from their employers.

“What we are finding right now is in a lot of the fraud offences where we have employees stealing from their employers and in some instances, in the banking system, employees stealing money; defrauding customers from their accounts,” he said.

“We have quite a bit of that. There has been a slight increase in those type of offences last year.”

A number of former banking employees were hauled before the courts for theft and/or fraud last year.

In January 2018, a former customer service representative of Fidelity Bank was ordered to repay over $42,000, which she deducted from clients’ account.

That month, a former IT manager at Bank of The Bahamas was sentenced to three and a half years for stealing $21,000 from pensioners’ account at the bank.

Last April, Travis Mackey, 36, a former contract worker at the Royal Bank of Canada was banned from working in any financial institution for seven years after he admitted to stealing over $61,000 from the bank.

Mackey and another former employee were also charged last November with stealing more than $124,000 from RBC in 2016 by falsifying payment entries.

Yesterday, Rolle urged customers to obtain statements regularly and review deductions and transfers in particular.

“Do not wait too long because a lot of persons do not check their statements and when they come in, the offense has been perpetrated a couple of months ago, and then you have to go back

“If you check it regularly and you do business online, then you should go online and check.

“The banks email statements. Check those statements.

“If there is a figure in there that they are not unfamiliar with, they should pursue that figure for further clarification.”