Edmonds Marshall McMahon
‘Fraud’ is a word that people find easier to use than to define. Partly for this reason, it is difficult for lawyers to summarise the way in which their particular jurisdictions deal with it. Some of the sources of their laws will be domestic and will have evolved over time. Others will be recent international conventions where regard must be had to the decisions of other jurisdictions.
But these difficulties aside, the problems that ‘fraud’ generates pose unique challenges for the legal system of any country. First, there will be forensic issues: to what lengths should the court go to discover what actually happened? Here different jurisdictions place different priorities on what their courts are for. Some treat the court process as an almost sacrosanct search for truth. The courts of my own jurisdiction tend towards this end of the spectrum. Others regard it as a means of resolving disputes efficiently and providing certainty for the litigants. Often courts in this category allow no witness evidence and no procedure for disclosure of documents, regarding both as disproportionately burdensome for any benefit they might provide.
A number of factors have served to make this more difficult. The growth of international conventions for the harmonisation of laws and enforcement of judgments is clearly one. Perhaps more notable, however, has been the international impetus to curb money laundering through criminal sanctions. These have, however, been first steps, albeit comparatively successful ones. There is still a huge amount to be done.