The difference in investigation procedures undertaken in the First and Third World explained

This is the second and final part of an earlier post outlining the differences between investigations conducted in the Third World, compared to those in the First World.

Food for thought: So what if you take a shortcut and pay, say $19.95 from one of these “electronic” Western investigative companies for a criminal records check on say a “nanny” from a Third World country and she harms your client’s child. Then your client works through another reputable and established overseas investigative firm in the country concerned and it is determined that the “nanny” concerned has a criminal history of such behavior. Are you liable to your client for not even knowing who conducted that criminal records check for you in the Third World country concerned, that you paid one of those “electronic” investigative companies $19.95 to conduct?

In several countries within Southeast Asia for instance, upwards of at least 1% of records may have been expunged by those with prior criminal records. You might say, well, that’s only 1%? Well, its 1% of millions. That could easily be over a quarter of a million falsified records in some countries!

And with regards to education checks, there are geographical areas within the major cities of numerous third world countries where one can not only purchase a fraudulent diploma from a prestigious local university, they can also have transcripts prepared in a tailor made fashion as the buyer prefers. I have much depth of experience with individuals from third world countries migrating to the U.S.; and, I have reviewed many hundreds of U.S. corporate background investigations within the U.S. From that experience, I know that the majority of background investigations that U.S. corporations conduct on new hires who have recently migrated into the U.S. from third world countries, do not usually conduct background investigations on those new hires from before they “landed” in the U.S. as new migrants. Why? Sometimes it has to do with the expense, i.e. upwards to $1,800 compared to less than $250 within the U.S. Or, they assume that the U.S. State Department has conducted same prior to approving them to migrate. Well, they haven’t. They usually coordinate with local government agencies to confirm marital status, and whether the prospective migrant has a criminal record or not. Remember the 1%+ of individuals referenced above that can manipulate their criminal records?

In walking down around the East side of Manhattan recently, I noted many third world “Nanny’s” presumably migrants, walking obviously younger Western children to school, and babies in strollers. I couldn’t help but wonder what type of background investigations the employment agency concerned, ran on the candidates for such positions? I suspect nothing was run on their previous lives overseas and if they did, were they $19.95 specials, or the $250+ required to correctly check the hard copy criminal records in the country concerned. The same may apply to “care providers” for the elderly, even nurses, etc.

Similarly, process service in Third World countries will definitely take more time than it would in the Western World, due to travel time and security concerns. Say for instance that a Westerner may have met their Asian spouse in the capital city, or at least a larger city in an Asian country concerned (or over the internet), and a separation eventually occurs and the spouse returns to that Asian country. The spouse probably has returned to their home province distant from the city where the Westerner met him or her. So, an investigator must travel to that location, and sometimes it can be in a higher risk area of say in the Southern Philippines, Southern Thailand India or Indonesia, where even local Christian investigators would be at risk from local Muslim radicals; or, vice versa.

Also, process service in more commercial situations can be more dangerous than they may be in the Western World, so a criminal records check and/or a neighborhood check may be run to determine what potential risks the investigator may be up against before the actual service. And then, two investigators may be required depending upon the security concerns in the area where the service may take place; or, depending upon where the person to be served is employed, lives or whether he has bodyguards supporting him.

Also, the culture of corruption is much stronger in Third World countries than it is in the Western World, as life is harder, with many scrambling just to make a basic living….sometimes only putting one meal on the table daily. Transparency International ranks most Third World countries towards the top of their list of corrupt countries. Unfortunately, that trickles down into our industry overseas. Some local “independent” providers will be able to conduct background investigations or conduct process service at lower rates than a fully registered and licensed local competitor, due to lower overhead and salaries. But sometimes this includes paying their employees below the minimum wage. So a general lack of motivation on the part of the actual investigator conducting the lead, may result in he or she taking short cuts to include “ghost writing” negative results, never having conducted some of the leads that were required.

As well, others may discard the papers required for process service and prepare a fraudulent affidavit of service. And a few other companies may take a required advance, and then you never hear from them again. You should always request photographic evidence of process service, at least of the address concerned; or, that an investigator indeed visited a distant province in the third World Country concerned to conduct the lead required, looking for a time/date stamp or a well-known landmark in the area concerned.

One area that would help international investigators in keeping their fees down is if the Western-based investigator would give them the entire background up front, as if they were part of their “team”. What is usually the case is that the Western investigator only gives the international investigator part of the background. The reasons can include, but are not limited to, because there is concern that the international investigator might circumvent him and go directly to the client; or, might violate operational security, as if Western investigators know more about operational security than international investigators. A simple non-disclosure or non-compete agreement can resolve such concerns.

The reason full disclosure can be important in helping to keep the fees down, is because the international investigator may see something in the background which might assist in the successful outcome of a matter and in a less costly manner than if they conduct the exact leads that their Western based investigator is requesting initially. This could be due to his intimate knowledge of the local culture, what type of investigative direction offers the best chance of success with the least investment of time and effort, and circumventing local bureaucracy.

Another example might be wherein a Western investigator insists on surveillance activity that is time and manpower intensive, but which might have a lower chance of success than might be the case in the Western world. This may be due to the horrendous traffic encountered in for instance, Jakarta, New Delhi, Bangkok or Manila. Often times and while it may take longer, the same results might be achieved via an investigation, requiring less man-days and manpower, thereby significantly reducing an International investigator’s fees to the Western investigator and his client.

Something to keep in mind with regards to billing in such relationships is that sometimes International investigators are not inclined to support Western investigators’ requirements overseas simply due to potential cash flow concerns. Cash flow is critical to almost all small investigative firms and small international firms cannot wait to be paid when the Western investigative firm is paid by his client. Therefore and as is often the case, an International investigative firm will require a 50% advance from a Western firm, as a way of sharing the potential for delayed payments. If the Western firm advances 50% for international support, there is a better than average chance that they will chase payment from their client much faster than otherwise, increasing the chances that both parties will be paid by the end client sooner than later.

And as an alternative, a Western investigator might reach an agreement with an international investigator to simply turn the client over to the International investigator with the agreement that the international investigator will pay the Western investigative firm a 10% “finders” fee on total fees, for that piece of work from the actual client; or, even for all work given by that client over a fixed period, like six months after first invoice.

A last point is that it is critically important for the Western investigator is to reach agreement with an international investigator who is a member of a worldwide investigative association. Why? Because if after the work is completed, the Western investigative firm would have recourse through the senior hierarchy of that worldwide association, if there is a disagreement in either the results being as requested/purported, or questions on fees arise.

If you want to discuss your particular requirements, please feel free to contact us at OSI.

This post is based on an article written by our managing director, Jeff Williams, who was formerly a Special Agent and Counterintelligence Officer for 17 years with the U.S. Air Force Office of Special Investigations (OSI). He was assigned to the U.S. Embassy, Manila in 1984, working Philippine-wide with varied Philippine police and counterintelligence counterparts, where he has continued to work commercially since his retirement in 1992. He is the recipient of the Bronze Cross Medal for Bravery from the Philippine National Police in 1991. He runs his own company in the Philippines, Orion Support Incorporated ( He is Board Certified in Security Management by ASIS – International; and, a Board Accredited Investigator with INTELLENET and is their Asia Regional Coordinator. He was inducted into the USAF OSI Hall of Fame in 2009 in Washington D.C.