Besides the investigations my team and I undertake for radio documentaries, we also produce carefully edited interviews that I conduct with people of interest to our private clients.
These interviews are what in the risk management business are know as source inquiries, or as Humint in CIA jargon. No, I am not a spy or private detective. This is good, honest reporting, much like I’ve undertaken as a journalist for most of the last thirty years.
Our reports do tend to contain more detail than most journalism with the details often footnoted. The other difference to journalism is that these reports are not for the general public, but for our clients’ eyes only.
The reasons clients ask us to investigate a subject vary a lot. The client may be legally required to undertake due diligence or KYC (Know Your Customer) ahead of doing business with an individual or company. So we ask people who know the individuals or the owners, executives and board members about their goals and objects, their competencies and management styles and how well they perform. And we ask about their reputations in whatever industry they happen to be in.
Our job may be to help a client get to know exactly who they will be dealing. Or sometimes a client has a specific requirement, like understanding the implications of a new regulation; why a change in management has problems or whether someone the client is working with is corrupt.
The client may have already entered into a business arrangement that has turned bad. An affiliate may have unexpectedly gone bankrupt. We investigate fraud, corruption, human rights violations, poor labour conditions, environmental issues and more.
Finding the right sources, convincing them to speak to me, and then accurately reporting what they say in a way that is clear and easy to read, is the work we take pride in.
We start by getting to know our subject through the internet and other public records. Then we discreetly seek out people to call who can shed more light. Of course finding those people is one thing. What if they don’t want to talk to me when I call up out of the blue? I will never pay them. I can’t force them. Yet, for some reason, many trust that I am just trying to get to the truth. For that, I am grateful.
Some investigations get complicated. Our clients may not want the subject to know that we are investigating them. It could set off alarm bells if, for example, the client is considering buying them out, or if the subject is suspected of wrongdoing. So we have to figure out whether a source is too close to the subject and might inform them of my call. Or, if the source is not close enough to the subject, they might not be able to tell us anything that is useful. We can never be sure we are making the right choices but, after years of doing this, we generally are.
We currently operate out of Accra, Ghana but our location is irrelevant. I call people everywhere in the world where business is conducted in English, French and German. This includes a lot of eastern Europe, Asia and most of Africa. Our reports are in English.
Our clients tell us our findings are more in depth than those of competitors. Many source inquirers just summarize their interviews. We, on the other hand, provide clients with every word — even every sigh and laugh — if it might provide insight for the client better understand the subject.
We check what sources say for accuracy and footnote heavily. Our reports are structured so that the client can quickly absorb a lot of often contradictory information. But the way we edit can make entertaining reading.
Please contact us if you‘re interested in us conducting an investigation.