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White collar crime: such a serious charge requires an excellent defence

“White collar crimes: what are they? How did this definition come about?”

It is to Edwin Sutherland, a famous American scholar, that we owe the first definition of what were brought under the umbrella of ‘White Collar Crimes’.

Sutherland laid the foundations for a study that would never again be abandoned; on the contrary, research in the years to come would refine the white-collar model, adapting it to specific practices and economic and social changes. From now on, criminological investigation would no longer be directed at individual subjects but at complex and structured criminal conduct, hinged on the economic organisation of the enterprise.

These offences were specifically those committed by persons of high social status (which could be qualified as such according to the position held), therefore, reference was mainly made to individuals of medium-high social extraction and considerable technical experience, who were authoritative and ‘socially strong’.

It was concluded that, precisely because of this important role, these individuals were more likely to desire and more easily obtain undue enrichment even by committing, if necessary, serious irregularities sanctioned by the criminal law.

This is why it became necessary to circumscribe these so-called white collar crimes, distinguishing them from the others.

What are White Collar Offences

White-collar crime is very often referred to not as simple violations of technical rules, but as premeditated behaviour for calculated monetary gain affecting different categories of victims.

Among the latter is in fact the State: think of the case of bribery committed, for example, by public officials. White-collar workers can often, thanks to their considerable technical expertise and by virtue of the positions they hold within the same company, be accused of unjust enrichment and/or of committing serious irregularities sanctioned by the criminal justice system.

What is worse is that, very often, great confusion is created in the population as to the correct identification of White-Collar Crimes.

They are, for example, sometimes confused with the more common ‘professional thefts’ with the difference that a professional thief is usually considered a criminal, while a businessman is considered a respectable citizen. One really does not understand this disparity.

There is therefore an urgent need to shed some light on such a complex and controversial topic.

In common parlance, white-collar workers are defined as those workers who do not perform physical tasks but those who work using the knowledge acquired from their studies. Classic examples of white-collar workers are office workers, professionals or civil servants.

These offences, which generally have the purpose of financial gain, are usually characterised by the absence of violent conduct and by the category of victims. Logically, the typical subjective element of these offences is wilful misconduct, in the sense that the agent must be fully aware of the unlawful conduct he or she is engaging in.

What are white-collar crimes?

In general, white-collar crimes are related to the world of finance, market and trade and the internet and cyber world. Among them, the main ones are:

– Fraud

– Money laundering

– Corruption offences

– Fraud in public funds

– International bribery

– Bid-rigging

– Abstention from tenders

– Fraud and failure to fulfil public supply obligations

– Aggravated fraud for obtaining state or EC funding

– Fraudulent insolvency

– False accounting

-Cyper crime and data theft smishing ransomware fraud

In addition to this, there is a whole series of offences covered by special laws concerning ‘corporate crimes’ and those committed in the international arena.

White-collar crime is usually expressed in the field of business in false financial reporting of companies, stock market rigging, direct or indirect bribery of public officials, fraud in the exercise of trade, embezzlement and misappropriation of funds, tax fraud, other ‘misconduct’ in bankruptcy proceedings and even bankruptcy.

In the medical profession, for instance, the one that at first glance expresses less criminality than others, one finds illegal sales of alcohol and narcotics, abortions, complacent treatment, false testimony in car accidents, false declarations of insanity, and so on…

The criminal category described above, moreover, tends to be underestimated, even in the courts, and this for four fundamental causes:

– Magistrates are inclined to regard this type of crime as scarcely probable;

– White-collar crime is not considered publicly or as heinous as main stream crimes;

– Victims of high-level crime are not regarded as seriously harmed in the same way as victims of other types of crime;

– The media tend to present crimes from the wealthy classes with justificatory arguments.

The prosecution of the ‘white collar’ criminal rarely involves more than one individual. Political corruption, for instance, almost always involves collusion between politicians and businessmen, but prosecutions are generally limited to one individual.

According to some, then, there is a well-defined relationship between white-collar crime and organised crime, which can reshape the concept of organised crime as ‘crime that is organised’ rather than ‘mafia-style crime’. What emerges, in any case, is that both constitute organisations that need corruption for self-preservation; they are, in short, nothing more than distinct forms of organised crime.

An unjustified social reaction

In recent times – probably due to the desire of us all to lead as peaceful a life as possible – it seems that the social reaction towards white-collar crime has particularly intensified.

Public opinion is in fact becoming increasingly attentive to this type of illegal conduct and the remedies provided against it by the legislature.

In any case, the economic damage of ‘white collar’ crime, however great it may be, is less worrying than the damage to social relations; crimes of this kind undermine trust and thus create mistrust, which weakens social morality.

In truth, it is also a question of ethics. Hence the very concept of corporate social responsibility has spread. As a result, ethical codes and social balances have emerged, the former representing a sort of constitutional charter of the company, a charter of moral rights and duties that defines the ethical and social responsibility of every participant in the corporate organisation.

Today, we speak of transnational and globalised crime, where the crimes of the powerful take on global proportions and cannot be ascribed to a single category or legislation. This type of crime does not stem from the relaxation of social ties, but from their strengthening.

Recently, the highest national and even international authorities seem to have recognised the seriousness and danger of economic crime and related phenomena (Brussels and Paris European Conventions of 1997, United Nations Convention of Palermo of 2000, etc.). These stances, subject to the necessary verification of the facts, are a great novelty, since the attitude of the institutions is of primary importance in combating this particular type of crime.

Nevertheless, white-collar crimes continue to be committed, and the condemnation of the alleged perpetrators is becoming increasingly severe.

A strenuous defence is therefore urgently needed.

ILA: Experienced white collar crime defence lawyers

Individuals held responsible for white-collar crime certainly need very special assistance. Normally, in fact, this type of client possesses a very high level of professional and technical preparation and therefore cannot rely on a traditional criminal lawyer, but rather on a lawyer, or, even better, on a team of lawyers who are experts in tax and banking law issues and regulations.

International Lawyers Associates, and its mixed team of criminal and tax lawyers, together with its own business consultants, is an associated firm that has historically devoted years of professional commitment to the all-round protection of ‘white-collar’ lawyers.

That is why it can be considered one of the best references for those who are under investigation or accused of committing these types of crimes.

The lawyers at International Lawyers Associates are renowned experts and scholars of business issues, financial statements and the regulations governing the financial market.

What makes the difference is not only the high level of preparation in these areas, but also the method adopted, which is that of the formation of a defence team, capable of guaranteeing maximum attention to the client.

Such a thorny and controversial subject deserves a defence of the highest calibre, which knows how to proceed from a careful analysis of the white-collar crime case.

It is better to choose very carefully the lawyer assigned to this type of defence, because it is a legal protection that, as it is easy to guess, not everyone is completely able to guarantee.