SA’s shocking white collar crime bill

2014-11-10 00:00

WHITE-COLLAR crime bleeds hundreds of millions of rands from the South African economy. And this figure, based only on those cases which are reported to the police, could be much higher.

Experts warned that the extent and damage of white-collar fraud is unknown, with many criminal cases falling away when they are not pursued by small business owners who were fleeced.

As the International Fraud Awareness week approaches, the private sector was urged to report all cases and put the squeeze on fraudsters.

Speaking at a Durban Chamber of Commerce sitting on commercial whistle-blowing, Deloitte’s Mimi Le Roux said that the situation was serious.

“I don’t need to talk about the economic conditions in South Africa. Businesses can take their annual revenue and remove five percent, and that is a ballpark figure for what is lost to fraud every year. This amounts to R930 million,” she said.

“You need to have zero tolerance and register the criminal cases even if they go nowhere,” she added.

Durban attorney Peter Feuilherade, chairperson of the KwaZulu-Natal white-collar crime task team, said existing statistics could not be relied upon.

“It’s one of the reasons why statistics on white collar crimes in this country are completely false. We don’t know half the story, if not a quarter of it because so much is not reported to the police,” he said.

“Companies feel they do not have the time or the resources to worry about pursuing a criminal case. They think that getting rid of the person is enough. If you lucky they will have a pension fund that you can dip into for compensation and that is it. You get rid of the problem and then it is too costly to take it further,” Feuilherade said.

He said that the establishment of the specialist commercial crime court had streamlined matters, but more need to be done.

“These days the commercial crimes court has helped the situation because you have people dedicated to white collar crime.

“The level of success has been exceptionally good even while their roll is cluttered and they are having an effect because people are starting to plea bargain because they realise that it is futile to fight.”

The bigger companies have codes that dictate that they must report every case no matter how big or apparently trivial they may be.

“But once again if I look at the chamber and its members, we have among us some fairly small companies who do not have the money or time to follow a criminal case though all of its adjournments,” he said.

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