A First Draft of a Training Course for Anticorruption Investigators: Comments Please!

Last week I complained about the poor quality of the training provided to investigators in developing country anticorruption agencies.   Here I offer a (very) rough draft of the topics I think a quality course should cover.  Comments, additional sources, and (gentle) critiques requested.

1) Basic case analysis: how to gather, assemble, and asses the facts in complex financial and white collar crimes.  The emphasis would be on the creation of outlines and timelines.  Other topics: the use of Excel (particularly the pivot table function for organizing and analyzing bank records and compilations of data) and report writing.  Xan Raskin of the I-Sight group has a useful ten minute talk on writing effective reports here.

2) The elements of fraud and corruption crimes and the evidence required to establish them:  Talks with prosecutors in a number of countries suggest this is an area that cannot be stressed enough.  Prosecutors have told me they are handed files where proof of such basic elements as the suspect’s status as a government employee at the time the bribe was received is missing.  All bribery statutes with which I am familiar require proof of some kind of intent.  How to demonstrate intent on the basis of circumstantial evidence is an area where there is considerable confusion.

3) Interviewing suspects and witnesses: The topics would include use of the PEACE method, the technique now used by Scotland Yard and other developed country police forces and examining suspects and witnesses about documents.  Douglas Star’s extraordinary piece in the December 2013 New Yorker on the shortcomings of the interview methods used by American investigators and the advantages of the PEACE model is must reading for American trainers.  I-Sight, a commercial purveyor of investigative services, has much useful material on the PEACE method here including a handy one-pager on building rapport with an interviewee.  Like the young American lawyers I trained early in my career, most investigators think that asking an interviewee a series of questions about a document that are all variations on “does this document say what it says it says” constitutes a sufficient examination on the document.  Someone, somewhere must have a paper titled “20 questions to ask about a document” or something to that effect.  If that person is reading this blog, please share it.  My list is old and doesn’t cover questions about e-mails and other e-docs.

4) The fundamentals of finance and business.  Many anticorruption investigators are recruited from the national police force and while they may come to the field with investigative skills, they often know little about such basic matters of business and finance as:  what is a corporation and how is it formed, operated, and regulated; what are trusts and partnerships and how do they differ from corporations; how to read various financial statements; and so forth.  An individual can successfully investigate homicide, rape, burglary, and other “street crimes” with little or no knowledge of these topics.  Such knowledge is essential for an anticorruption investigation.  Knowing that a corporation is registered in some jurisdiction and what information the registry is likely to contain is one example.

5) Cross border investigations: Particularly in developing countries, corruption almost invariably crosses national borders.   The bribe payer will be a foreign firm or national or the national profiting by the corruption will hide the profits in another jurisdiction.  Topics that must be covered include the difference between seeking intelligence and evidence from foreign law enforcement agencies; what type of information can be gleaned from the public records of another jurisdiction, what foundation is required for admitting such information at trial; and issues of privilege and confidentiality.  UNODC one source of material for this topic: its step-by-step guide to writing a request for mutual legal assistance has proved useful and it has a variety of publications listing bilateral and multilateral treaties on extradition and MLA and providing advice on international cooperation on criminal justice matters.

6) Training on corruption in different sectors: Investigating corruption, or indeed any business-related financial requires an understanding of the industry in which the business operates and where and how corruption manifests itself.  An investigator that does not know what a bill of quantity is or the role of the supervising engineer under a FIDIC contract will be at sea when it comes to determining whether a construction project has been corrupted.  Ditto for industry-specific information in health, electric power, education, and so forth.  So far as I know, no such course on any industry now exists.  Information to the contrary is most welcome.

7) Corruption in procurement: As this blog has noted in several previous posts (here, here, here, and here) in developing states procurement corruption is all too common and often particularly harmful. Training on procurement corruption might begin with the basics of the investigators’ national procurement law.  Examples would include when deviations from competitive procurement are allowed (an area prone to much abuse), the requirements for publicizing tenders, and conflict of interest rules governing those on the tender evaluation committees.  A thorough grounding in behavior that should raise suspicions (“red flags”) and how to follow up on such suspicions should follow.  U4’s page on financial management and procurement is one of many useful sources.  What I have yet to find is helpful materials on how to investigate procurement corruption.  Again, readers who know of good sources are asked to comment.

Other training areas, such as effective investigative decision making for supervisors and managers, merit in-depth discussion and will be the subject of later posts.



12 thoughts on “A First Draft of a Training Course for Anticorruption Investigators: Comments Please!

  1. This is a fantastic list that brought to mind two thoughts: First, how long would a course have to be to teach these topics in a successful manner? I’m afraid that the only way to offer impactful training on these topics — in the sense that the foreign enforcement authorities will absorb and retain the lessons in a meaningful way — would be to (a) offer a long-term course akin to the FBI training academy at Quantico or (b) break up the course by topic into a series of training sessions. I think that the former is both more likely to be successful (because you remove the investigators/prosecutors from the day-to-day worries of their cases, which will often distract the trainees and prevent them from fully engaging with the lessons) and far more impractical.

    Second, thinking back to your post from a couple weeks ago, it strikes me that the seven topics on your list are geared more toward general — as opposed to country-specific — background knowledge that could be of use to any foreign enforcement authority. As I believe you suggested in your prior post, though, to be most successful, these various topics should be tailored to the needs and abilities of the trainee nation. For instance, while all of the statutes require proof of intent and the recipient’s status as a public official, it may be helpful to adjust the lesson to account for other peculiarities of the trainee nation’s statute, criminal procedure rules, etc. I know that you didn’t to imply that country-specific tailoring is not preferred, but I just wonder how it would factor into your seven topics.

  2. It’s wonderful to see these concrete ideas, Rick. I have a few disparate, nitty-gritty remarks.

    1) and 2) Perhaps I’m getting too elementary but, in addition to timelines, one of the most useful tools I saw during my (very brief!) summer working on investigations was the evidence matrix. A table that breaks out each element of the offense and has an adjacent column with the corresponding evidence makes for a highly effective way to view a case. It condenses very complex facts, identifies holes in the case, and makes for a smooth transition from investigation to litigation. Maybe evidence matrices are intuitive or are already in use. And, of course, the specific content would depend on the jurisdiction and offense in question. But a training course that provides materials should promote them and include templates.

    5) A senior, American FCPA attorney was recently recounting how, at times, he is still unsure of what information he can and cannot legally obtain in certain jurisdictions. Beyond giving an overview of how to functionally navigate MLA processes and manage evidence, a training manual might supply a brief description of the information privacy and disclosure laws of relevant countries. A database requiring comprehensive legal research in numerous jurisdictions is a big ask. I wonder if such a compilation already exists.

    7) You probably know more about this than I do but INT runs an investigator training course for the UN. The curriculum includes great practical exercises to teach trainees how to identify red flags in bid documents. I’ve only participated in a segment of the course but I learned a lot in a matter of hours and I’m very curious to know what else the program does to address corruption in procurement.

    • Jordan, you are right that the training must be geared to national law which means longer prep time for a course. The only training provider I know that does that kind of in-depth analysis is the Basel Governance Institute which insists on a mission quite some time in advance of the training where the trainers gather copies of the laws and interview prosecutors, judges, and lawyers about how they are applied.

      On the length of training, I prefer a series of one week or less modules on the different topics staggered over several weeks if not months. I think adult learning is most effective in smaller bites and in any event it is difficult to get a large block of time from busy investigators.

      Elizabeth, good thought on the evidence matrix. In U.S. civil cases both sides often must submit pretrial statements describing the facts they intend to prove and the evidence they will rely on. In cases I tried I prepared a version of the statement listing each separate fact and the evidence (witness testimony, document, admissions by opponent) I intended to introduce to prove it. Great way to ensure nothing overlooked. Thanks for your thought. Will dig out my old (very old) files with my statements (but only for the cases I won).

      Lots of agencies have made a stab at the kind of data base of laws and regulations on what different jurisdictions permit in the way of MLA, intelligence, and the like. See the OECD-ADB web site on East Asia countries’ rules for cooperation and the UNODC for information on other regions. The problem is the laws change and often are dependent upon “local practice.” Unfortunately there is no substitute for directed research on a country at the time a request is being contemplated. And under at least some American state malpractice standards, reliance on secondary sources can be grounds for suit if doing so results in harming the client.

      Will hope INT and others share their materials broadly through this site or elsewhere.

  3. Rick,
    This looks like a very good start toward what is a very large problem. On (1) Case analysis, I would expand that to ‘Case Management’ – it needs more than analysis in complex white-collar crimes. These investigations tend to be protracted, and can fall apart if the lead investigator moves on, out or up. A well managed case with regular, structured progress reports (including what needs to be done, evidence gathered, interviews conducted, appointments with prosecutors, court dates etc etc) can be handed to another competent investigator to carry.

    In my former life with the Australian Federal Police, we were required to complete a standardised case report on a regular basis. Often this was simply a brief update recording what had occurred in the reporting period. However, when brought together (easy on a database), these situation reports gave a cohesive outline / timeline of the investigative process, and not just the crime. While this was standard for all investigations (complex & simple alike), it is especially important when documentary evidence can become overwhelming.

  4. Great list of very relevant topics.
    Regarding No. 6: The ICAR recently did sector specific trainings (oil & gas industry and in the forestry sector) at KPK in Indonesia. Tom Lasich will have more information about the content of these trainings.

  5. This is great, thanks Rick. My addition to #5 would be a training unit on how to navigate data on procurement that may already be publicly available, without having to resort to cumbersome MLATs and the like (or expensive/unavailable subscriptions to various law enforcement databases like Lexis People Search, although those can be useful as well). As I recall from enforcement cases at the SEC, it was essential to investigate targets using information published by other securities regulators. This publicly available information was useful in tracking down beneficial owners, business connections, and the like. Corporate registries are another good source — Open Corporates, for one, does a great job of aggregating this data, making it searchable, and linking back to the original data. As an aside, #7 may soon be touched by the new Open Contracting Data Standard movement (although I am aware of your fear of collusion as a result of such openness).

  6. Really interesting post Rick. I think you’ve highlighted some crucial skills that would serve to greatly enhance the ability of investigators to identify instances of corruption. To follow up on Jordan’s point regarding how long it might take to successfully teach these topics, I wonder if you think that it would be useful to promote a higher degree of specialization amongst anticorruption officials than it sounds like (from your previous post) you have observed so far. Obviously, a number of the skills you have listed above are useful for any investigator (i.e. learning how to conduct basic case analysis or the elements of fraud/corruption crimes). However, is it possible that having investigators specialize in certain areas (for example, focusing specifically on procurement or a particular industry) would serve to decrease the total amount of time/resources necessary to train corruption investigators while still serving to produce a more effective group overall? Or do you believe that producing a cadre of anticorruption investigators that are well-versed in all of these areas will prove to be most effective in the long term even if it may potentially require slightly more time for these individuals to acquire all of these skills?

    • Good questions. In some countries the answer will be driven by financial issues: there simply won’t be enough money to have people specialize. Where specialization is affordable, it will be a question of how common certain types of corruption are. A landlocked country may not need any specialists in customs corruption whereas a country that serves as an entrepot may be able to keep several specialists in customs corruption busy full-time. A country planning a major expansion of its electric power industry would be well-served to ensure at least some anticorruption investigators know the basics of the industry. Procurement corruption is likely to be found in so many settings that it probably should be as much a part of every investigator’s training as how to interview a suspect or prepare a case file.

  7. This list is an excellent starting point. It covers all the basic components. I would add another component on the thematic level, 8) Media, Confidentiality and Integrity in Corruption Cases.
    To be effective, the agencies as well as individual investigators and prosecutors need to be prepared for the inevitable attacks and vigorous defenses that will be mounted in corruption cases, much more so than in other kinds of cases. High-profile corruption cases usually attract media attention. Well in advance of a big case, investigative and prosecutorial agencies need to have a strategy to communicate appropriately and effectively with media. This will often involve a single well-trained point of contact. At the same time, they need policies and training to minimize leaks of confidential information. Missteps in either of these areas can severely prejudice a case. In addition, to guard against personal attacks on their integrity, investigators and prosecutors must pay special attention to their contacts and dealings. As a former prosecutor, I would say that unscrupulous adversaries are looking to exploit any possible chink in the armor. Attention to the potential pitfalls of media communications, confidentiality and intergrity will prepare prosecutors and investigators to succeed in their substantive work.

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