Profession with no law: How Ukrainian private detectives work without licenses

Author : Ksenia Tsyvirko

Source : 112 Ukraine

The view of ordinary citizens regarding the work of detectives consists mainly of fragments of action films and novels about Sherlock Holmes. First, not everyone can afford expensive services; secondly, such activities are still not regulated by the relevant law.
09:24, 17 November 2020

Open source

Many detectives prefer not to advertise their occupation, working under the guise of lawyers and investigative journalists. However, this does not prevent them from providing a wide range of services, some of which are on the verge of criminal liability. reveals how detectives work without a license in our country and what may change in the Ukrainian investigation in the near future.

What kind of work do private detectives take?

To find a childhood friend with whom you have long lost contact; to check the personal qualities of the nanny in order to entrust the baby to her; to find Internet scammers who stole the money... Advertisements on the provision of such services can be found in old newspapers 20 years ago, but for most Ukrainians they remain exotic.

In addition to "specialized" help in problematic life situations, some people are trying to draw detectives into love triangles. A member of the Association of Private Detectives of Ukraine and the owner of the Bureau Lynx detective agency tells about the peculiarities of his work.

“A girl called once. She wanted us to collect a DNA sample from her friend’s child. The question is, why is this needed? To prove to her friend’s husband that he is not a biological father. Another one wanted to collect dirt that his girlfriend is far from white and fluffy, as she presents herself. And once again an old man turned to me. He was sure that his wife cheated on him with some kind of policeman in the distant 86. He wanted me to check these circumstances ... When such strange proposals are received, it becomes clear that people do not quite understand what detectives should do, what they are allowed to do and what they are not allowed to do," says Ruslan Bolgov, owner of the Bureau Lynx detective agency.

Generally speaking, the work of a private detective is reduced to the search and analysis of information. State registers, open databases, analytical web platforms, social networks, forums, instant messengers…. In the hands of the pros, these tools allow not only to compile a complete biographical note (for example, of an employee), but also to lead on the trail of criminals: sometimes you have to look for only one photograph, painstakingly comparing the captured fragments with all kinds of sources.

Of course, work is not limited on the Internet. Almost all detectives are former police officers, prosecutors, SBU, state guards, and the Foreign Intelligence Service. The "pupils" of such bodies brought out not only special knowledge (for example, measures in operational-search activity), but also useful acquaintances, which they continue to apply in a new professional incarnation. In search of the necessary information, sometimes you have to remember acting lessons, transforming into a flower delivery person or a neighbor in the stairwell.

The help of an experienced detective will clearly not be affordable for an ordinary Ukrainian: his services will cost an average of $ 300-1000 per day. The solution to the problem requires an individual approach and depends on the completeness of the initial data, therefore, according to experts, only scammers call universal prices.

However, the bulk of clients in detective agencies are not jealous husbands, but legal entities. Companies are asked to organize a check of hired employees (collection of a biographical dossier, a polygraph test), to establish the solvency of counterparties, to conduct a corporate investigation (for example, on the disappearance of goods from a warehouse). Large firms, as a rule, have their own security service on their staff, but it is limited by the walls of the office and cannot conduct business intelligence or track down a fraudster in another country. The cost of detective services for companies also varies from case to case, reaching hundreds of thousands of dollars.

No license, but taxes included

Ukraine remains one of the last European countries where detective activity is not regulated by law. The private detective market is not clear-cut, and counting the number of private detectives and detective agencies should be entrusted to the same specialists. It is easy to come across fraudsters among them, but it is almost impossible to remove them from pseudo-detective activities: the company can change its names, and there are no registered licenses for such specialists.

However, the pinkertons of local tailoring have long ago adapted to work without a specialized law. Perhaps for the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the Ministry of Justice there is no such category as "private detective activity", but it has been known as a source of tax deductions for more than 10 years (KVED 80.30 "conducting investigations"). Detectives can also register the provision of legal, information, security services, working under the guise of a law firm or the media.

When a client asks for an investigation, the agency draws up a contract for the provision of a certain list of services. Such officialdom threatens mainly companies, and agreements with individuals are managed verbally. Many detectives have name stamps and special forms to send inquiries to the authorities. In short, they try to work transparently and openly.

Detecting adultery and checking the child's lifestyle. This implies the conduct of outdoor surveillance of the object with accompanying photo and video recording. Such operational-search activities have the right to be carried out exclusively by law enforcement officers. However, officially, detectives carry out covert escort of a person to provide security, which is generally consistent with the letter of the law.

Related: Knife wielder attacks police in Avignon, gets killed on spot

Otherwise, they are not limited by anything: the services of a polygraph examiner can be found on the Internet, and in the expert service of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, on a paid basis, you can order almost any examination, ranging from traceological (examination of traces) and handwriting, ending with ballistic and explosives.

The lack of licenses for detective activity does not in any way prevent former law enforcement officers from joining international professional associations, receiving honorary membership cards and signing memorandum of cooperation with national associations of private detectives (Serbia, Germany, Romania, Georgia, Turkey, Great Britain, USA). Such an "international network" of private detectives allows them to "reach" almost any point on the continent, if required in the interests of the investigation.

Ukrainian Scotland Yard, or joint work with the police

As long as detectives are free from additional bureaucratic procedures, this allows them to devote more time to the investigations themselves. Unlike police officers, who are obliged to register all reports of crimes committed, to check the circumstances and pre-trial investigation, private detectives work to the best of their workload. For one investigator of the National Police there are more than a hundred cases, which at the same time need to be properly drawn up - otherwise, the work done may not be counted in court. In this regard, detectives have "free hands", they have more time and motivation for a thorough investigation.

“Recently, a group of farmers approached us: the grain was sold, but the money was never received. Fraudsters caused damage in the amount of 10 million hryvnia. This is a criminal offense. But from this group of farmers, only one person immediately turned to the police, which already demonstrates the level trust. And even then, the case was eventually closed: according to the police, there was no corpus delicti, and the farmer's report of fraud refers to civil law relations, "says Serhiy Gida, head of the Association of Private Detectives of Ukraine.

Realizing the deplorableness of this situation, the police themselves sometimes turn for help to their former colleagues - private detectives who can more quickly collect information. However, those also come with a counter offer. First, for a private investigation of a crime, information from police officers may be required: it will not be easy for a detective to find a stolen car without using city and national video surveillance systems. Secondly, the information collected by him will not be counted as evidence by the court if it is not included in the criminal proceedings opened by the police. The materials of a private investigation are not grounds for going to court: the customer must deal with the "skeletons" found in the closet independently.

"When it comes to serious crimes, the evidence recorded by a private detective is trying to legalize and attach to criminal proceedings. A detective can act as an applicant, witness, legal civilian representative, expert and, at the same time, legally transfer information, gain access to the case materials," says Ruslan Bolgov.

While detectives have to go for certain tricks, the Ukrainian authorities have officially engaged the international detective agency Kroll to investigate the financial violations of PrivatBank. This requirement for an independent audit was put forward by the IMF.

In countries where the activities of detectives are regulated by law, they do not have to hide in the corners. Law enforcement agencies and detectives constantly exchange information, conduct joint operations, and train personnel. However, this does not apply to grave and especially grave crimes against life, health, sexual freedom.

"Just the other day we had an operation together with the Criminal Investigation Department of the Federal Republic of Germany (Kriminalpolizei) to find fraudsters who sold fake goods under the guise of well-known brands. They were later caught red-handed by the police of several countries, Germany and the Netherlands. Law enforcement officers in this case draw up a separate agreement with a detective agency," Gennady Naida, a private detective from Nuremberg, Germany, shares his experience.

 For more than 10 years in Ukraine, MPs have been trying in vain to legalize the private activities of detectives and drive them into the framework of the law. In 2017, the initiative of them almost achieved success. The profile bill No. 3726 was adopted in the second reading and has already been submitted to the president for signature, but Poroshenko eventually vetoed it.

According to various media outlets, the former guarantor of the constitution made such a decision on the advice of Interior Minister Arsen Avakov. Initially, the text of the bill assumed that the National Police would receive the right to issue licenses for carrying out detective activities and maintain the corresponding register, but after amendments were made, these powers were transferred to the Ministry of Justice.

The MPs of the new convocation decided not to postpone this issue, having prepared 4 bills on detective (search) activities. However, the main stumbling block remained. In the community of detectives, they speak out against the implementation of control by the Ministry of Internal Affairs: this can not only create additional corruption risks, but also turn detectives into a "police appendage".

The Committee on Law Enforcement Affairs recommended the bill # 3010. It involves the creation of an Authorized body in the field of regulation of private detective activity, which will determine the procedure for training detectives, issuing certificates, maintaining an appropriate register, as well as the creation of a Commission to consider complaints against the actions of a subject of private detective activity. This should become a kind of analogue of the National Bar Association of Ukraine and the Qualification and Disciplinary Commission of the Bar, which are under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Justice.

However, such a future for private detectives looks rather vague: the process of adopting the law of the previous government showed that changes can be adopted at any time. At the same time, detectives hope that they can work independently of the police, becoming a kind of its alternative. Some decided to prepare in advance for the impending changes, completely disowning their detective activities.

While participating in the development of the bill, the specialists of the public organization All-Ukrainian Association of Private Detectives were disappointed in its final version: their corrections and comments were not taken into account. In their opinion, the authorities already now groundlessly perceive private detectives as potential criminals, and in the future they may become completely dependent on the Ministry of Internal Affairs or other law enforcement agencies. Therefore, the Association members took a different path: in 2018, the public organization changed its concept and was reorganized into the International Association of Investigators and Experts in Crisis Situations.

Related: Ukraine’s National Police exposes transnational group of human traffickers

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