Interview with Graham Salmon, Forensic Accountant

Q: What is a forensic accountant and why might I need one?

A forensic accountant (‘FA’) is someone who prepares reports for civil and criminal courts.  He or she is instructed either by a party to the proceedings or jointly if  the court decides that is a better option. In any event the FA’s duty is to the court.

You may need a forensic accountant for example if you :
1. Want a business valuation in connection with a divorce or separation;
2. Have been a victim of fraud in your business and you want it investigating;
3. Are in dispute with a business partner about any financial matter or payout;
4. Have been in an accident and are making a personal injury claim;

Q: How does an investigation work? Is it a dark art or is there a clear methodology?

Because the matters which the forensic accountant is reporting on are generally legal issues the FA is normally instructed by a solicitor.  That creates the framework for the FA to operate in and from which he can create his report.

A report requires the FA to undertake a detailed analysis of the evidence made available along with any further information he or she may discover along the way.  Each case is different requiring a variety of approaches and techniques.  For example a business valuation requires a review of existing data whereas an investigation requires the use of audit and interrogation techniques.

Q: Is the truth uncovered in every case?

Whilst the establishing of the truth may be a laudable aim, most cases are decided on the balance of probability in the civil courts and on the basis of beyond reasonable doubt in the criminal court.  A business valuation, for example, is largely the opinion of the expert ie the FA and not necessarily the view of everybody – particularly the warring parties!  The quality of the advocacy of the barristers also has a large part to play.

Q: How widespread is fraud in the North West and what is the prosecution rate like?

Fraud is at epidemic levels all over the world and the North West is no different.  There is a very low level of fraud investigation work undertaken by the authorities , even fewer prosecutions and even fewer convictions.

The statistics are particularly poor and hard to obtain but a few years ago there were only 38 fraud prosecutions in the North West with a conviction rate of around 80%.  Whilst the reporting of fraud and the processing of that data is at an industrial level, the follow up by the police, HMRC and other agencies is almost nil.  That means that many cases of fraud have to be pursued through the civil courts in order to have any chance of recovery and restitution for the aggrieved party.

Q: Graham Salmon – tell me a little bit about you and how to contact you?

I am a chartered accountant and a certified fraud examiner.

My specialism is the SME sector and I cover fraud, valuations, investigations, criminal defence.

I am also frequently instructed in proceeds of crime act cases (POCAs) and housing association and charity frauds.

I appear in court on a regular basis all over the country although not every case requires a court appearance by me.

My contact details are:

Graham Salmon FCA, CFE