26 August 2010
The Finnish Government made a decision of principle to fight economic crime in 1996. The decision included an Action Plan, initially a three-year programme of proposals for reforms in the control of economic crime. The programme was extended three times, and the fourth action plan 2006-2009 is currently being implemented. Similar initiatives against economic crime have been put into operation also other Nordic countries.
According to the official definition of the Finnish police economic crime is 'a criminalised act or neglect which is committed in the framework of, or using, a corporation or other organisation'. Despite the broad definition of economic crime, the types of offences that have been under scrutiny - both in the action plans and in practice - have been crimes where the victim has been the tax-authority, 'markets' or other enterprises: book-keeping crimes, tax evasion, crimes of the debtor and certain forms of other financial crimes such as insider trading. In terms of these types of offences, the programmes have been relatively successful.
Perhaps reflecting conventional wisdom within criminology, to the effect that in the rare instances that regulation and enforcement does proceed against business offences then this tends to encompass 'economic' as opposed to 'social' offending, safety crimes, for example, did not form part of the Finish initiatives against economic crime. This has meant that enforcement activities have been aimed at crimes where the victims have suffered financial losses, and other forms of victimatization have been ignored.
Using economic crime in construction as an example, we aim to demonstrate the variety of harms and victims ignored by the criminal justice system. We argue for a broader understanding of the harms caused by economic crime comprising also the harms caused to employees, consumers, the environment and the market.