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South Africa White Collar Crime Rate High, But Businesses Better at Finding Culprits

A new survey says South Africa has one of the highest white-collar crime rates in the world, but it’s not all bad news. The survey also finds South African businesses are doing a good job now of catching the criminals.

The Global Economic Crime Survey is published by PricewaterhouseCoopers. Trevor White is a partner in the firm’s Forensic Services Division. From Durban, he spoke to VOA English to Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua about South Africa’s white-collar crime rate.

“One thing that I can say it is significantly higher than the global averages, with 72 percent of the companies in South Africa that were surveyed reporting having suffered some economic crime in then last two years. One of the things, which I would like to say, that there has been a marked decrease from 83 percent of the companies two years ago. And I think that possibly one of the explanations is that it’s a bit of an anomaly that when you know what you’re looking for and the harder you look, you’ve got a better chance of actually finding it…companies in South Africa in the last couple of years have spent a lot more time and effort and money on actually pro-actively investigating these types of economic crimes as soon as something is possibly detected. And therefore I think they’re having a lot better success in identifying them and actually taking pro-active action after,” he says.

White says the figures should be interpreted as meaning South Africa is doing a better job of cracking down on fraud. “In South Africa, a person has got a far better chance of actually being convicted of an economic crime…than they have elsewhere in the world. With the South African courts being a lot more successful in sentencing white-collar criminals than they are in the global averages. In fact, South African courts are 50 percent more successful than the global average in that regard.”

He credits a worldwide trend in cracking down on corruption, including tough legislation passed in the United States that affects US affiliate business overseas. He says that more fraud is being detected through better internal audits and whistleblowers coming forward to report wrongdoing.