THERE are not many forensic accountants in Fiji to combat money laundering and other financial crimes says Rakesh Chandra Raju, who has just been awarded an internship in Australia this year under the Greg Urwin Awards.
Raju, who was a lecturer at the Fiji National University prior to taking up the award says this area has been lacking human resources.
"The main problem is the lack of skilled people available to track, carry out investigations and prosecute cases relating to money laundering and other specialised financial crimes. Apart from that, there are legal jurisdiction challenges as well," he said.
He developed an interest in forensic accounting after reading articles focusing on the increasing rate of fraudulent practices around the globe.
"I also came across cases of fraud that I either uncovered or was asked to investigate during my working life. After some research on the net, I came to know that there is a specialised group of people known as forensic accountants who undertake fraud investigations and provide support during prosecutions.
"I also found out that there were courses available in universities that prepare people with inspirations to join the forensic accountancy field. I decided that it was something worth pursuing and was very fortunate in securing an AusAID scholarship to fund my aspirations," Raju said.
After completing his degree in accounting at the University of the South Pacific two years ago, Raju went on to Wollongong University to complete a master's degree in forensic accounting.
Now he is a certified chartered professional forensic accountant and is currently the country's representative for the Institute of Certified Forensic Accountants Fiji Charter.
He hopes to gain more experience and contacts in his field through the Greg Urwin Award and will take up workplace attachments with either a Pacific regional organisation or an Australian one.
"I aim to gain valuable experience, skill and exposure necessary to tackle money laundering, terrorist financing, fraudulent activities and other financial crimes. I also intend to acquire the knowledge to investigate and undertake law enforcement work to combat specialised financial crime.
The Greg Urwin Award will provide me with the opportunity to do all these as well as to develop beneficial links and contacts for enhancing my contributions to Fiji's development in its effort to curb money laundering and terrorism financing.
But it was not plain sailing for Raju who is originally from Matalevu, a cane farming settlement outside of Tavua Town.
After completing his high school at Tavua College Raju came to Suva and continued his schooling at tertiary level.
"I developed a great passion for accounting from my secondary school days. I could understand the concepts in accounting well so I set a goal of becoming an accountant in life.
"I have spent a total of 11 years in the private sector in various accounting roles. I started my working life as an accounts officer. After leaving the Fiji Sun, I worked in fishing companies, an inter-island shipping company, NGOs and ended up as finance and administration manager for Natadola Bay Golf Course," Raju said.
And ever since then he has been running his crusade in this new area of accounting, especially in a world that has been wrecked by global financial meltdowns and crimes that nearly brought the world economy down.
"Yes, money laundering is a real problem in Fiji. There have been many cases of money laundering uncovered and prosecuted by the Fiji Financial Intelligence Unit and by the Anti-Money Laundering Unit of the Fiji Police Force over the past years. There are some cases before the court system at the moment as well."
He hopes that when he returns he will continue with his work in helping ensure the country's financial systems are clean.