Forensic accounting: More than just numbers

Who hasn’t needed the sound advice of their accountant, especially during tax season? Accountants are known for their expertise in accounting, audits and tax returns. But did you know that Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC) has forensic accountants who help in criminal investigations with a financial component, such as fraud, money laundering or terrorist financing?

Since 2002, PSPC has provided independent and neutral expert forensic accounting services, upon request, to provincial, territorial, municipal and Indigenous governments and their police forces.

John, one of PSPC’s forensic accountants (whose name was changed to maintain anonymity), is part of the Forensic Accounting Management Group at PSPC. As a member of the investigation team, he supports clients in a neutral advisory role and serves as an independent expert witness to help the courts understand the financial elements of the cases before them, mainly for criminal investigations.

“As forensic accounting experts, we provide a skill set to the police that is very specialized. We look at the evidence, do the analysis and write reports for the prosecutor,” says John.

He works with a wide range of clients, from small municipal police forces to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, from provincial civil forfeiture units to large federal departments. He and his colleagues on the team are chartered professional accountants with specialized accounting expertise in specific financial sectors, such as cryptocurrencies.

With more than 6 years of experience in forensic accounting and 20 more split between both the private and public sectors of the financial industry, John has provided expertise in many financial court cases. His first file at PSPC was a case involving elder financial abuse. These kinds of incidents occur all too often and investigations can be complex. In this case, the perpetrators defrauded their parents who were stricken with Alzheimer’s and dementia. John’s analysis was able to demonstrate intentional wrongdoing and the defendant(s) pleaded guilty. “I looked at the activity in the account prior to and after that moment. I saw the money climbing, like savings, over the years and then, in 12 months, it was gone,” he explains.

An illustration of a hand shining a flashlight on a fleeing individual holding a large dollar sign.

He believes that his communications background helps him in his daily job “because I tell stories,” he says. He sees it as an advantage. “It’s amazing the stories you can tell from looking at someone’s bank account or credit card statements since these documents have descriptions of what was spent, where it was spent, and sometimes locations and other critical details.”

Identifying financial wrongdoing

Law enforcement agencies need forensic accounting expertise to properly investigate cases with complex financial components, as these experts help make sense of financial evidence.

The input and testimony of staff from the Forensic Accounting Management Group have been quoted in court decisions and are highly valued in the justice system. Their services and expertise when it comes to financial crimes are often crucial for the proper administration of justice in Canada.

You can also check out PSPC’s Our stories to explore more stories from the people and projects making a difference in the lives of Canadians.

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