“What if their witch won’t let them cooperate?”
You think I am kidding?
This was a real question by a real attorney working for government and private sector organizations during a weeklong workshop I was delivering. I had been working with these people in Sub-Saharan Africa for almost 18 months on anticorruption issues and investigation and was near the end of the 5-day workshop.
I thought I knew them. Most of them had attended prestigious law schools in the U.K. and U.S. and I thought they were kidding. They weren’t.
I had been working with some of them directly on anticorruption related investigations. Naturally, we had discussed witnesses, and evidence and investigation planning, but this had never come up. I had mapped out the community leaders when I first arrived, but I had overlooked a few subtle categories of community leaders. Learning point – it can take some time to really learn how to carry out an investigation in an area.
One approach is to take a page from social scientists and the U.S. Military – survey to find out who the significant opinion leaders are – who do people trust? What services do they provide to the community? Is there an intersection between those opinion leaders and the targets of your inquiry?
Of course, this takes time, and corporate offices in North America and Europe don’t often immediately see the return on investment for this level of inquiry. Similarly, the attorneys hired by those firms also don’t see the return.
Worse, some think they know how to make the appropriate inquiries despite never leaving their home country for more than a week or two, and then, typically on vacation.
Just yesterday a colleague told me of a North American company that has lost millions of dollars in its start-up operations in (unnamed country) because they thought they could just fly in and deal with the business operations leaders to close the deal and move forward.
Whether you are carrying out a law enforcement investigation, or a corporate FCPA or due diligence investigation, finding the powerful outside parties that have influenced the deal can be tricky and may not be easily revealed with ordinary asset tracing or document tracing approaches in the real world.