IT was amazing to hear of the extent of the island’s latest human trafficking travesty as it unfolded on the media, during the course of the past couple weeks. Apparently, the lives and finances of about 60 non–nationals have been affected in an active police investigation, which was likely to see more charges being preferred under the island’s Human Trafficking Act. Moreover, the number of institutions which seemed to have unsuspectingly aided the perpetrators of this crime with official documents is certainly cause for profound concern.
As far as Abetta Country and many others are aware, this is the age of trans–national crime. Our bid to attract investors should not blind us to that fact. The island will have to toe that fine line between undertaking due diligence and minimizing red tape to facilitate the ease of doing business. We need to very quickly employ measures, in areas which have been apparently left vulnerable, to fool proof the country against investment fraud while sending a strong message to con–artists, who may be eyeing Saint Lucia, as a possible haven for their criminal exploits to take place unnoticed.
There are already systems in place, which would deter fraudulent activities; however, the possibility always exists that some individuals may feel confident enough to test systems and regulations armed with their brilliance, charm, persuasive speaking skills and the confidence that they can beat the system with an airtight plan.
For this reason, without being unprofessional, the staff of organizations must be trained to look behind the façade, uncover the facts, and make wise judgement calls. They must constantly engage in cross–checking and authentication. Financialmentor.com says something very useful on the profiling of certain persons in the fraud business. It says that: “Con artists are different. They do their homework first. They learn persuasion techniques designed to convince you to buy on faith without investigating. They study the characteristics of affinity groups to create a sense of trust and common bond. They have well-rehearsed answers to common questions. In short, they are professionals.
For this reason the process of fraud–proofing should begin with frontline workers, with layers of due diligence taking place at every stage of a process. Again we stress, not to make a process unnecessarily cucumber but to be prudent. Perhaps the explanation of a process might assist a client or customer to understand why certain checks must be made. Most persons would be more patient once they are told why some additional effort is being invested in ensuring that all transactions are above board.
Quite apart from businesses which more than likely can access the resources to strengthen their anti–fraud practices, ordinary citizens also have to be very vigilant against the wiles and tactics of con artistes. As can be seen in the Lambirds Academy matter; ordinary, intelligent, hardworking, ambitious individuals were targeted and ‘relieved’ of hefty amounts of money through an alleged education scheme. This certainly signals the grave consequences which are attached to such crimes, should one fall victim to fraud.
Globalization has set in, exposing small island states to more sophisticated forms of crime including white collar crime and general commercial crime. As a result citizens who perhaps have been a little laid back in undertaking their financial transactions have to adapt by becoming mindful of their affairs and to be prepared to ask pointed questions. Never take anything at face value. The days for being naïve are long gone. Request valid documents, proper identification and consult with second and third parties before solidifying any deal or agreement, particularly if the parties concerned are strangers or the transaction comes across as questionable. Be prepared to let go and walk away if your intuitive alarm bell keeps going off in your head. Trust your instincts.
By Abetta Country