The Fundamentals of Evidence for a Budding Investigator
For any investigator, coming up with solid evidence is the key to success. Being new to the job, collecting evidence is as equally complicated as testing its integrity. With modern technology, evidence multiplies in quantity and complexity. This situation presents opportunities but challenges, as well. Since evidence can be accessible to just anybody, it is most likely open to criminals, whose only goal is to hamper investigation procedures.
Evidence: Relevance and Weight
There are two essential principles that a successful investigator needs to know – relevance and weight. Before any material can be used as evidence, it must be proven to be relevant and have bearing to the investigation.
In order for evidence to be relevant, it must tend to either prove or disprove an offence’s elements of proof. It must be convincing and compelling. A fraud investigator must take two things in consideration: the elements of proof and the type of evidence, whether it’s direct or, at least, circumstantial. Once noted, these can be used in each stage of the case, which includes planning, interrogation, and reporting.
On the other hand, fraud investigators must also pay attention to the weight of the identified piece of evidence. Its reliability and source should be tested to ensure it is foolproof. In the same way, the credibility of witnesses should be assessed. Statements should corroborate with available evidence, especially if a witness is subject to scrutiny.
Types of Evidence
In a fraud investigation, there are different types of evidence, namely statements of witnesses, documentation, and hard evidence, such as images, tables, and graphs. In order for witness statements to gain enough weight as evidence, they must corroborate with hard evidence. Most importantly, fraud investigators must ensure that witness accounts are their own, that witnesses have direct and personal knowledge of what they have witnessed. Hence, careful yet smart interrogation must be done. On the other hand, documents and images can be considered as financial evidence if they are relevant to the investigation, authenticated, and contain direct evidence to the subject matter. Ensuring the investigator has some sort of financial evidence is paramount during an investigation. This is because a court will be more inclined to believe the testimony of co-conspirator when presented with financial evidence showing proper engagement in legal financial transactions. It also helps for a more thorough cross-examination of the witness.
Methods of Proof
Fraud and corruption investigators must be familiar with the methods of proof. They include specific items, net worth, expenditures, bank deposits, disproportionate income, various cash liquidation, safe deposit box activities, etc. These are methods that can be used in building a strong case in a public corruption investigation.
Presenting the Evidence
Fraud is defined as an act of misrepresentation that leads a party to gain financial benefit or obligation. In order for fraud to materialize, the following must be established. The first step is to prove that misrepresentation has been committed. This action must be proven false or misleading using the evidence gathered. Once proven, a strong argument must be made that the subject intended to mislead the other party. The evidence should highlight this argument. Finally, fraud investigators should be able to prove that the subject had the intention to gain profit from this misrepresentation.
By carefully extracting the facts from evidence, a financial investigator can establish a strong case.
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