Hiring a Corporate Private Investigator in Singapore

Last updated on January 12, 2022

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If you are a business owner in Singapore, keeping an eye on every single employee, transaction or competing business can be an uphill task. As a result, it may be easy for fraud, bribery, corruption and other misconduct to go unnoticed. This may have undesirable repercussions on your business, such as the loss of profits, harm to your business reputation and loss of productivity.

To prevent such possible corporate wrongdoings, or if you harbour any suspicions about your employees and/or business activities that could harm your business, you may consider engaging a private investigator.

This article will cover:

What is a Corporate Private Investigator

A corporate private investigator (PI) is a licensed professional who specialises in providing investigative services to businesses to uncover possible misconduct. A corporate PI will be able to gather and compile proof of such misconduct so that you will be able to defend your business and take legal action against wrongdoers.

When Might You Want to Hire a Corporate Private Investigator in Singapore? 

1. To check whether an employee is leaking trade secrets to competitors 

Some employees may be tempted into accepting bribes from competitor firms. In exchange, they may divulge trade secrets or other confidential information, such as client records, to the competitors.

Such unauthorised leaking of information could constitute a breach of confidence, which may have undesirable implications on your business. A corporate PI could help uncover such misconduct to reduce the extent of damage done to your business.

2. To check whether an employee is embezzling funds or making unauthorised transactions

You may want to hire a corporate PI to check if your employee is embezzling funds or using your business to enter into unauthorised transactions. In 2019, for example, there was a case in which unauthorised transactions were made under the instruction of the group chief executive and managing director of mainboard engineering group Tee International. These transactions included the transfer of $3.75 million to the managing director’s personal bank account and to an offshore company controlled by him.

The managing director had requested the transfers for the purposes of a “corporate exercise”, but it later turned out that the managing director had used the funds to pay off his personal loans and satisfy margin calls. The transactions went undiscovered and were detected only at the end of the financial year by an external auditor.

Unauthorised transactions may be difficult to detect, especially if your employee has a management role. This is because the transaction requests may be passed off as being necessary for business operations. For example, in the aforementioned case, the managing director claimed that the transactions were needed to fund a project for the group.

When the managing director’s acts were exposed, the group’s shares plunged, reflecting a huge loss of investor confidence. This only goes to show that unauthorised transactions may pose a threat to your business profits and reputation, and it is hence important that any wrongdoing be nipped in the bud.

3. To investigate possible infringement of intellectual property

Intellectual property (IP) refers to products and processes that have been developed by human intelligence. They include inventions, literary and artistic works and designs.

Accordingly, IP infringement is the unauthorised use or duplication of such products. Some common forms of IP infringement include patent infringement, trademark infringement and copyright infringement. The table below summarises what they entail.

Patent infringement Inventions, which can be products or processes, are protected by patents. A patent will grant the owner the right to sell the product, make use of the processes involved in the manufacturing of products, profit from it and so on. 

Patent infringement occurs when someone makes, sells, or distributes the patented product or process without permission to do so.

Trademark infringement A trademark is a sign, such as a brand name, logo or design, that businesses use to distinguish their goods and services from those of other businesses. 

There may be trademark infringement when other businesses signs that are similar to yours when selling related goods and services.

Copyright infringement Works such as literary, dramatic, musical or artistic works are given copyright protection, which then grants the copyright owner the exclusive right to reproduce, publish, perform, communicate and adapt his or her work.

Copyright infringement occurs when someone, who is not the owner of the copyright in the work, exercises the aforementioned rights without a valid licence, such as by reproducing the work.

While there are laws in place for the protection of IP and to punish those who infringe on IP rights, it is for you, the business owner, to detect any possible infringement or piracy. This is because generally, only the owner of the IP has the legal right to take action and so the burden falls on you to establish your case.

Should IP infringements go undetected, your business may suffer losses. For example, the sale of goods that infringe on your IP rights may divert sales away from your business, especially if those goods are being sold at a lower price. A corporate PI can help to keep an eye on your work and track how it is being used to detect possible infringement and identify the individuals behind it.

4. To carry out pre-employment screening of new hires 

You may also consider hiring a corporate PI to carry out pre-employment checks to ensure that you hire only the best candidates. Hiring someone without first verifying the legitimacy of their backgrounds could be risky because you do not know if they are actually qualified for the job, or whether they are who they represent themselves to be.

For example, sometimes, applicants may provide false information to cover up past wrongdoing or to appear qualified for the job when they actually lack proper credentials. Without pre-employment screening, such deception may go unnoticed, leaving you with errant or underqualified employees.

What Can a Corporate Private Investigator Help You With? 

1. Surveillance of employees’ movements and activities

To monitor employees’ movements and activities, corporate PIs may install monitoring software in devices that are used by employees daily, such as work computers or fax machines. They may also monitor employee movement through CCTV footage.

A PI may even conduct undercover surveillance on suspicious employees, which entails following them around. For example, such surveillance could occur during lunch breaks or outside of work hours, or when employees do not work in a fixed location. By doing so, the PI can monitor what the employee is doing, where he is, and who he is meeting to check for any suspicious activity.

2. Conducting background checks on employees/new hires

Corporate PIs have sophisticated techniques and tools to help you uncover information that a new hire may have hidden from you. For example, a corporate PI may conduct checks on the applicant’s resume and references for any false information. The PI may even go as far as heading down to a foreign university to verify the applicant’s qualifications.

The PI may also interview the applicant’s close associates, perform database searches on public and private records, as well as examine the applicant’s criminal convictions if any. Additionally, the PI may perform other checks on the internet, such as by looking through the applicant’s social media profiles, to give you a better idea of his/her character.

3. Mystery shopping 

Corporate PIs can help to gather evidence of possible IP infringement by posing as a “mystery shopper”. This entails buying potentially counterfeit products that are being sold by other businesses. After obtaining the product, you will then be able to conduct an examination of it to check for IP infringement without alerting the other business. If IP infringement is found, the counterfeit product will serve as useful evidence for your claim on IP infringement.

In 2014, luxury brand Louis Vuitton (LV) engaged a PI to visit the store of a local company suspected of infringing LV’s trademark. The PI purchased a wallet that was found to be a counterfeit product of LV’s Malletier wallets, and LV later successfully sued the local company for trademark infringement.

Why Hire a Corporate Private Investigator

There are many benefits of hiring a corporate PI. First, the corporate PI will be able to gather evidence of any corporate wrongdoing and provide you with the necessary documentation that you will require.

As a corporate PI is able to select the most appropriate fact-finding procedures for your case, hidden information on corporate wrongdoings can be brought to light quickly. This will in turn allow you to swiftly decide on your next course of action, be it firing the relevant employee, putting a stop to unauthorised transactions, or suing the other party for IP infringement. It is especially important to take action quickly to reduce the extent of damage, if the wrongdoing could cause your business to suffer losses.

If you choose to take matters into your own hands, you may also risk having your cover blown, which may cause the wrongdoer (if there is one) to be more cautious in covering his tracks. This may make it harder for you to uncover evidence of any wrongdoing.

Additionally, you or your business may incur liability if found to be conducting unlawful spying on your employees. In June 2021, IKEA France was found guilty of improperly gathering and storing its employees’ data, including reviewing employees’ bank account records. As a result, the furniture giant was slapped with a hefty fine of 1 million euro (S$1.61 million).

To avoid being countersued by your employees for spying on them unlawfully, it is best that you leave investigations to trained professionals. They will be able to expertly uncover any wrongdoing using legal methods only.

Another benefit of hiring a corporate PI is that you will be able to save yourself the time and hassle of trying to look into the matter yourself. This is necessary because even if there is some kind of wrongdoing that is taking place, you cannot ignore daily operations and allow your business to come to a standstill.

At first blush, it may seem that things are running smoothly for your business. However, many things could be going on without your knowledge. It is possible that a business may become a victim of wrongdoing by competing businesses or even its own employees.

If you have any suspicions about your employees and/or the occurrence of any activities that could be detrimental to your business, do not hesitate to act on these suspicions and hire a corporate PI. The PI will conduct all the investigative work for you.

While suspicions may eventually turn out to be false, it is always better to err on the side of caution. This allows you to have a peace of mind while conducting your business. On the other hand, if your suspicions do turn out to be true, you will be able to take action quickly to reduce the extent of damage that your business could suffer.

Should you require a corporate PI in Singapore, you may contact our partner PI, International Investigators, for more information. International Investigators Pte Ltd is licensed by the Police Licensing & Regulatory Department of Singapore and has also won numerous accolades for being one of the best private investigator firms in Singapore.

Private investigators from International Investigators have been trained to handle corporate cases, and are bound to keep all information confidential. Rest assured that you will be in good hands.