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White-collar crime on increase

Saturday, September 24 2011

THE EDITOR: Today, the perception exists that not only violent, interpersonal street crimes have increased in recent years but white collar crimes and corruption, however defined, are also rife in its private and public institutions. Although white-collar crimes do not receive the focus accorded to other crimes, for various and well documented reasons, there is heightened concern about these crimes, believed to be costing the country billions.

While investigative journalists in the society have done some significant work in this field, very little academic research on white-collar crime has as yet been undertaken. This can be explained partly by the fact that criminological research generally tends to reflect definitions by the public and State agencies of the principal social problems. White-collar crimes are increasing at an alarming rate and we urgently need practical ways to tackle these crimes.

It is well documented that financial cost of white-collar crime far exceeds the value derived from all street crimes. However, cost and harm need to be understood in more than purely financial terms. A vivid example points to the current Commission of Inquiry into Clico, where the consequences may extend far beyond monetary costs to cause the death of some investors?

The unfortunate truth is that wayward capitalists are much, if not more, a threat to society as the thug on the street. It is quite clear that if criminal proceedings were to follow the Clico Commission of Inquiry, it will make a true believer of everyone that lack of honesty does permeate the corporate world in Trinidad and Tobago. However, CL Financial, may be perceived as just the tip of the iceberg.

Today, we can detect a whole slew of apologists for the free-market capitalist system. The really greedy, corrupt, and criminal elements in the financial system are either ignored or rationalised away. And the Government is criticised by the media for wanting to gain control over wayward capitalists or eliminate greedy, shady practices in the financial system. There are those economists who are constantly defending capitalism at all costs against any kind of government intervention. It is as if they view white-collar crime as not existing.

Finally, in order to expose, prosecute, and punish these types of offenders, legislation needs to become more, rather than less, intrusive in the lives of Trinbagonians and business. The free enterprise system will hardly remain free and valuable to all if white-collar crime is swept under the carpet. Society cannot allow itself in the name of free enterprise to tolerate sophisticated theft, death, disease and severe injury perpetrated by white-collar criminals.



VALENTINE SMITH

via e-mail

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