How Money Detectives Find Missing Millions; Enjoy a Challenging Cocktail of Intrigue, Fraud and Courtroom Drama

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Byline: ALAN PLEWS

CHARTERED accountant or Sherlock Holmes? Forensic and investigative accountancy is an exciting challenge for anyone fascinated by financial crime.

Forensic accountancy involves investigating fraud, missing funds and assets, political corruption, kickbacks, money laundering, share manipulation, secret commissions, bribery and other financial disputes and problems.

Forensic accountant Hazel de Burgh says fellow practitioners must be able to meet the exacting standards of a court of law. Playing a key role as an expert witness is a world away from the dull image of accountancy.

Like many in the industry, Hazel began her career as a chartered accountant.

That was in Canada in 1986, before forensic accountancy became widely known.

After three years in auditing she took a one-year secondment with the Ontario Provincial Police fraud squad and helped to investigate white-collar crime.

Hazel had for some time considered training to become a lawyer but her move into forensic accounting combined 'the best of all worlds, playing the role of accountant, lawyer and detective at the same time'.

Back in the forensic accounting section of her firm, Hazel went undercover in Toronto's underworld.

A motorcycle gang had seized control of a block of flats by placing its members on the board of the management committee and increasing the management fees. The tenants called in Hazel's firm. She was able to present enough evidence in court to force a re-election of the committee.

Control returned to the law-abiding tenants.

Five years later, Hazel joined Canadian accountancy firm Lindquist Avey Macdonald Baskerville. It had acquired an international reputation, based on its prolific involvement in cases across the world, which has taken its personnel to more than 50 countries.

In 1995 Hazel came to the UK on Lindquist Avey's behalf, with the aim of setting up its London office.

In 1997 Lindquist Avey entered into a joint venture with the leading UK corporate recovery and restructuring practice, the Buchler Phillips Group, to launch a new company, Buchler Phillips Lindquist Avey. …