Nowhere to hide: Chapter 1: Are you a lawyer? Part 2

This case is challenging better than what we have ever handled. Support me and I take it up, love, I say. “Ok, if you

This case is challenging better than what we have ever handled. Support me and I take it up, love, I say.

“Ok, if you want the experience, take it up. No calling me at night. I will not be part of the team. You will spend all Sundays at home, as usual”, she says to which I reply in affirmative. “Ok, you can take up the case” comes the go-ahead.

With her approval secured, all is set. I immediately arrange a meeting with the prospect in Kampala to agree on the engagement terms and commence.

Continued from part 1.

Having the buy-in of Miss Accountability is critical.

She is not only my business partner but a wife and mother to my children including twins! Investigations carry a lot of risks both to the investigators, and their close family and relatives. Each case is evaluated in terms of risk and rewards both financially and socially. Our forensics practice accepts cases to help suspects who come claiming innocence and being victims of a setup. We call such jobs, “cause jobs” meaning cases are accepted for a cause to save the innocent though our findings usually tell a different story.

All investigations start with an assumption that matters shall end up in court. And all suspects are innocent until proven guilty. Unlike auditing – internal or external – which use sampling or partial data to draw conclusions and make opinions, investigators must establish facts and only facts relevant to the case at hand. It is our practice to always remind our investigators at case briefings, “if you don’t have any admissible evidence and facts to support it, do not write or include it in the report.” Yes, an investigator must establish facts. And in the process of doing so, several toes may be stepped on. And that is where the risk lies. You must establish who did what, where, when, how, and why.

Who is or are the suspects?

What did they do?

Where did they do it?

Where is the crime scene located?

When did they do it?

How did they do it?

Is it a case of theft or fraud?

Did the fraud involve the use of digital devices in which case it could be termed as cybercrime or not?

Why did they do it?

Lawyers call it “Mens rea” which means the state of mind of the perpetrator. As investigators, we know that at prosecution we must provide evidence to overcome the legal test of criminal liability — “the person’s intention to commit a crime; or knowledge that one’s action or lack of action would cause a crime to be committed.”

Though our practice never handles murder cases, we must think like lawyers. Whether the proof required is beyond a reasonable doubt (in criminal cases) or on a balance of probabilities (in a civil case, most of which we handle are) you don’t want to take chances. The more facts you assemble, the better the case you have. The more you make it easy for all involved in closing the file. Most case backlogs in courts could be a result of bad investigators lack of evidence. We know that this element of the “guilty mind” should be proved in any murder trial case. You are on a safer side to prove motive (the anticipated benefits from the crime) and intent (the mental state of the perpetrator –accidental or pre-planned?). If the mind is not guilty, then the act is not culpable!

It is that simple.
If the prosecution can prove [medically or otherwise] that the suspect was intoxicated or they are not mentally upright (mad), they are surely off the hook. Proof of this legal element is crucial in financial crimes and fraud cases. We consider all these factors before we take on any case.

As you establish facts, you point fingers. In many fraud cases, if not all, the suspects are known. It is the lack of evidence to pin them down that justifies our involvement.

The challenge with investigations is finding evidence beyond internal data. That means working with law enforcement and judiciary for the required legal clearances to obtain privileged and personal information like bank statements, biodata at national entities like revenue authority, social security, ministry of lands and telecoms to mention but four.

For this reason, we must establish contacts with law enforcement and the legal fraternity. The job involves a lot of leg work and an eye for details. This is not the work for the faint-hearted. You are in the jungle and so many leaves will be falling as you pass by. You must stay ready in case a monster is lurking nearby.

Time check is 6 pm, I set off for an evening meeting at Protea hotel. It is our practice to set first meetings with the prospect at a neutral place, preferably a hotel. As an investigator, I familiar prefer venues. And that is how I suggested a meeting at Protea, Kampala.

Our professional indemnity insurers expect us to take calculated risks. It is thus not advisable to meet at the client’s office for the first meeting concerning an investigation engagement. You don’t want the suspects to see an investigator at their office with their chief executive officer and or audit committee chair. Personal safety and that on my investigations team are of primary priority. I never involve the team until the investigation is in motion. That way, no one knows the custodian of the evidence including any smocking gun data.

I am the first to arrive at the venue, thirty minutes later. I take a seat in the corner of the bar facing the entrance. I order a Pepsi as I pass time on my phone. And wait. Another thirty minutes later, a tall light-skinned man, with a body build like that of a Rugby player enters the bar. He looks like someone in the mid-50s. He is shortly followed by another equally light-skinned but fat-bellied man, in his early 40s.

Mustapha? The tall man says as if to ask whether I am Mustapha. To which I nod my head, up and down repeatedly, as I stand up to welcome my visitors and prospective clients.

“Sorry for keeping you waiting. My flight was on time. But the road trip from Entebbe airport to this hotel is a long one. The Express Way is so swift until you arrive somewhere near the city. It is a deadlock. We could not move. The journey is exhausting. I had to first take a shower and realized that our appointment time is past”, he says as he squeezes my hand hard.

Copyright Mustapha B Mugisa, 2020. All rights reserved.

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