International Investigations

International Investigations

Bearden Investigative Agency discusses international investigation cases

Disclaimer: The questions and answers deal with general investigative questions and how they may apply to mock situations. Although these answers discuss common issues, they may or may not be applicable to your case’s particular set of facts. The answers should not be taken as, nor are they offered as legal advice. Careful consultation with an attorney and/or an investigator is highly recommended prior to acting on any of the below. The questions and answers are protected by copyright and reproduction is strictly prohibited without permission from Bearden Investigative Agency, Inc.

Q:What is an International Investigation?

An international investigation is an investigation which may cross multiple jurisdictions, countries, states, or borders.  They may derive from a number of different inquires, whether it be for business, personal, litigation, or even financial inquires. 

Q:Are these types of investigations common?

Yes! We live in a global community.  More often than not, investigations cross over state and national borders on a frequent basis.  It may be that a subject corporation, entity, or individual may reside in a different country and be effecting a client based in the United States. Or, it may be that a witness’s particular activity, business trip, or other activity, takes place in a foreign jurisdiction and investigation is required in that locale.  Given that our agency generally deals with large complex investigations, we are finding that most of our cases span hundreds if not thousands of miles in different locales across the nation and globe.

Q:Shouldn't I hire an investigator in the area that I need?

A: You could.  However, the licensing of investigators is typically done on the local level and, in many cases, non-existent in certain regulatory environments.  In fact, the United States has at least seven states who do not have any type of investigative licensing regulation. Throughout the world, many countries have no regulation regarding private investigators, their activities, their duties, responsibilities, or their fidelity to their client.  Those that do have regulation may be substantially rudimentary compared to strong licensing regulations that exist in the United States in such states such as Texas, Florida, and California.  Some countries, such as the United Kingdom and most of western Europe, have instituted strong regulatory bodies and licensing regulation.  Others have not. 

Lack of regulatory law can be critical in determining whether or not a private investigator’s base activities are legal to begin with. Furthermore, most of these regulations are designed to protect the consumer and client.  Retaining an investigator in a strong regulatory environment, such as Texas, can provide the client with basic protections and standards of conduct even if their investigation is elsewhere.

Q:The evidence they obtain will be legal here in the United States, won't it?

Maybe.  The reality is that most courts will generally judge your investigator’s activities based on the laws in the jurisdictions they are located.  Not all laws, customs, and methods are accepted blankly across the globe.  Most local investigators will have a better idea of what is needed for their court.  Coordination between a local investigator and an out of state or out of country investigator can be critical.  In many cases, they can work together to determine what evidence would be recognized and what methods would be appropriate given the type of case. In addition, local investigators may have a better chance of testifying than an out of country investigator.  It also may be significantly much more cost effective for a local investigator to act as either a point of contact or provide testimony regarding results of any investigation.  In short, your local investigator should not ever be too far from the local courthouse to be summoned if ever needed.

Q:What kind of international contacts do you have?

At Bearden Investigation Agency, we take specific efforts to develop contacts in countries with common investigative activity.  Those generally include Western Europe, North and South America, and the Caribbean. We keep constant contact with investigators, contacts, attorneys, and agents in these locations.  Frankly, we have developed good rapports and have identified investigators who are successful in certain areas. Beginning in 1998, Bearden Investigative Agency culled these contacts into a private network labeled the Investigative Solutions Network. We maintain a continually updated list of our contacts so that our investigators have a point of contact or local investigator in most major population areas throughout the globe.

Furthermore, BIA maintains membership in a number of state, national, and international associations. These include the Texas Association of Licensed Investigators, The Louisiana Private Investigators Association, California Association of Licensed Investigators, Florida Association of Licensed Investigators, The World Association of Detectives, Coalition of Association Leaders, National Council of Investigative Security Specialists, Association of Certified Fraud Examiners, and ASIS International.  These associations have members across the globe.  We not only keep in touch with members, but participate on a pro bono basis in all of the associations. Many of our investigators have held past leadership positions or positions of influence.  We frequently make networking and contact trips throughout the world to identify new contacts and investigators. 

Q:How does an attorney led investigation assist in conducting international investigations?

Our investigators maintain a number of other professional licenses.  Those in our management team who are licensed as attorneys are particularly useful in conducting investigations spanning multiple states or countries.  As notes above, many states and countries do not have licensing for private investigators.  However, almost all have some licensing scheme for legal representations whether it be lawyer, solicitor, or barrister. In almost every jurisdiction a lawyer has almost an inherent right to conduct an investigation on behalf of his client.  Although we don’t normally maintain an attorney-client relationship with every investigative client, a licensed attorney can be useful when operating in a jurisdiction without a licensing scheme.  Furthermore, many states have exempted licensed attorneys from the private investigator statutes.  Each state may have specific circumstances where these exemptions apply; however, the use of a licensed attorney may provide not only authorization to conduct the activities in the desired jurisdiction but, also legitimacy in their performance and in the results obtained.

Q:Do your investigators speak foreign languages?

Yes.  Many of our investigators are bilingual or even trilingual. Presently, we employ investigators who speak fluent Spanish, French, Italian, and German.

Q:I, or my company, is a victim of an international financial crime. What do I do? Can you help me?

Possibly. Obviously, the size of the crime, the nature and the location make a big difference. Many times, the first step is to make a report to you United States local or federal law enforcement authorities. Picking the agency to file the initial report can be critical. For instance, many local law enforcement agencies are particularly adept at dealing with criminal violence and personal property crimes. However, they may not maintain the skills, contacts or knowledge in investigating white collar crimes, financial crimes or fraud. These may better be reported to various federal agencies such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the United States Postal Inspection Service (USPIS), the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the U. S. Attorney General’s Office or the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Additionally, many states have established regulatory bodies that maintain enforcement arms in the areas of securities, oil and gas, insurance, healthcare and law. These agencies many times have a treasure trove of resources that can be helpful in investigating large financial fraud crimes.

The second priority is identifying the country where the crime occurred and coordinating with a local law enforcement there. After acceptance by law enforcement here, there can be a stall between activities here and in another country. Many times, law enforcement will be coordinating through INTERPOL to find the appropriate law enforcement agency in that country to coordinate with or to notify about any summons, warrant or other detainer order. That doesn’t mean that an investigation will be ongoing. Many times, our role is providing quick, reliable investigation to assist law enforcement in providing facts and direction as to where a particular suspect is located, the nature of the scheme and the location of lost property so that they can effectuate a return or an arrest.

Although you may be a victim of a crime, you can and should consider civil remedies to make you whole. Large financial fraud crimes many times traverse the globe. Some countries, including the United States, provide adequate civil law remedies to allow you to locate and return lost property. During your initial investigation, it is critical to identify and document all facts to allow you to pursue multiple remedies. Yes, it is vitally important to get information to assist your law enforcement investigation. However, it may be as equally important to put a case together to achieve civilly what you may not get criminally.

Q:I believe my international customer, client, or vendor may be involved in money laundering. What do I do?

Under the Bank Secrecy Act, you may have certain requirements to file reports of suspicious activity with the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN). FinCEN is part of the United States Department of Treasury and is tasked with combating money laundering, terrorist financing and other financial crimes. Depending on the industry and transaction, a report may be required to be filed with FinCEN. After filing a report, FinCEN will likely review and, if appropriate, refer to prosecution. FinCEN is part of a larger global alliance of Financial Intelligence Units (FIU) known as the Egmont Group. If laundering is found in a particular country, the local FIU can refer such violations of law to local prosecuting agencies in the foreign state. Know your industry and determine if filing a report is necessary.

It is suggested that a more prudent business measure would be to ensure some basic due diligence is conducted prior to engaging a foreign national or corporation in business. Such research will obviously depend on the size and nature of the transaction. Even small due diligence can have a great impact in not only vetting your customers, clients, business partners and vendors but also understanding who they are. The costs of such vetting can be tailored to your needs. We can design a set group of data to access and check against in most given areas. Such a pre-transaction due diligence checks can ferret out potential money laundering transactions while providing great intelligence into who a particular business contact is.

Q:I'm thinking of investing in a foreign owned or controlled business. What kind of information is available? Can you get it?

When conducting due diligence investigations, the first “go-to” of many researchers is of course public records, credit reporting agencies and reported financial statements. However, in many foreign countries, public records access is severely restricted. In addition, credit reporting agencies internationally may have substantial limitations. The first step in any investigation is to identify the entities and individuals involved, the access to records and their contacts both in country and out of country. Depending on the size of the investment, it may be worthwhile to put “boots” on the ground and identify assets, contacts, operations and other type activity. Depending on the country, it is usually some combination of field work and detailed record research. This can be more intense than one can think. And, depending on the investment vehicle (i.e. joint venture, new entity, debt or equity position, asset purchase, merger or acquisition) we likely will be investigating the company in addition to the assets, current liabilities, business connections, key principals, entity status and competition. Generally, we work in conjunction with counsel or audit personnel to reach the result you desire.

Q:I'm recruiting or hiring an employee or new team member from overseas. Can you assist with a background investigation?

Yes. We specialize in such deep backgrounds. We look at not only criminal and civil litigation history of an individual. We also review their assets, political connections, familial and business associations, connected companies and investments, press coverage and general reputation. Because we routinely conduct detail profiles of politically exposed persons, ultra-high net worth individuals, and leading business persons we are familiar with conducting border crossing investigations of a difficult nature. Whether a member of the executive team or a routine employee, we can custom tailor the inquiry that you may have.

Q:I am considering expanding into another market, country, territory, or area. Can you provide me basic operational intelligence information regarding my potential expansion?

Yes. We can accomplish those goals on behalf of the corporate venture or on behalf of the investor. Comprehensively mapping the political, economic and cultural landscape of a country can be accomplished. However, it is generally preferred to limit the inquiry into certain areas. For instance, what is the local operating environment, transportation system, local governmental regulations, or employee compliance issues? Additionally, can we identify any risks whether financial or reputational that might be a problem in the country?

We can also identify and analyze potential competitors, facilities, site locations and security issues. In many of these larger country inquiries, we can answer the basic question of whether you should consider doing business in this locale and the important question of how to do so and avoid political and economic pitfalls. Our country depth analysis involves a mixture of researched records, statistical research, legal and political review and on the ground fact gathering and analysis. Our investigators are professionals.  You can rely on our experience and contacts as investigators, attorneys, ex-intelligence and security officials to answer your questions.