Wednesday, February 10, 2010

White-Collar Crime (Short Note)

Edwin Sutherland noted that certain crimes are committed by the affluent, “respectable” people in the course of their daily business activities. Sutherland likened these crimes to organized crimes because they are often perpetuated through the role of one’s occupation. Sutherland referred to such crimes as white-collar crimes. More recently, the term white-collar crime has been broadened to include offences by business and corporations as well as by individuals. A wide variety of crimes are now classified as white-collar crimes such as income tax evasion, stock manipulation, consumer fraud, bribery, and extraction of “kickbacks,” embezzlement, and misrepresentation of corporate information.

A new type of white-collar crime has emerged since Sutherland first wrote on this topic: computer crime or “backing.” The use of such high technology allows one to carry out embezzlement or electronic fraud without leaving a trace, or to gain access to a company’s inventory without leaving one’s home.

In addition to the financial costs of this form of crime, that run into billions of rupees per year (stuck-up loans, for example), white-collar crimes have distinctive social costs, including a decline in the quality of life, inflation for general public, and weakening of the social order. If those at the top of the nation’s economic, power and social structure feel free to violate the law, less privileged citizens can certainly be expected to follow suit.

Given the economic and social costs of white-collar crimes, one might expect this problem to be taken quite seriously by the criminal justice system of Pakistan. Yet white-collar offenders are more likely to be very leniently treated than any other class of criminals. They are not arrested because bails-before-arrest are granted to them quite readily, hearings against them proceed with much delays in the courts, and eventually only financial penalties are imposed upon them. Moreover, convictions for such illegal acts do not generally harm a person’s reputation and career aspirations nearly so much as conviction for a petty everyday crime would. Thus, if an offender holds a position of status and influence in Pakistani society, his or her crime is treated as less serious and the sanction is much more lenient.


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