Fighting crime by the numbers

An a-typical application of accounting

“The work I do is definitely demanding and challenging and can be daunting at times. But at the end of the day it’s intellectually rewarding for me.”

When he was growing up, UOW alumnus Kazi Hoque loved to read detective novels. He looked forward to growing up and working in an investigative role himself one day. His childhood dream ultimately came true - but not in the way you might expect from a crime-fighter.

“I have always been passionate about accounting,” he says. “It came from my dad. He was a professor in accounting and he wrote a few books on the subject. But I never saw myself in the traditional accountant’s role.

“I was always adventurous. I had a drive for challenging tasks, problem solving, asking why, finding out how. So when I finished my degree, I wanted to work in a field of accounting that gave me that challenge and also gave me the opportunity to do investigative work.”

Hoque came to UOW as an international student and completed his Masters of Professional Accounting in 2008. He went on to work for a professional accounting firm that specialised in investigations and investigative accounting. He then became a chartered accountant in 2012.

Hoque now works for NSW Police as a forensic accountant with the Financial Crimes Squad. “When I had the opportunity to work in my current role I was thrilled because this is what I wanted to do, and I had my fair share of reading detective novels growing up, so I was really looking forward to this,” he says.

In the same way that a detective would use evidence collected at the scene of a crime to tell the story of what happened, Hoque’s work as a forensic accountant is critical to explain financial crimes or motives in both criminal and civil matters.

“Like other forensic sciences, my work as a forensic accountant involves going through financial records and evidence and piecing together or reconstructing past events to explain a financial crime or to find out if there’s a financial motive behind other crimes like homicide,” he says.

“Generally, any criminal or civil matter that has a financial component or motive can be part of a forensic investigation. In criminal matters these may include fraud, money laundering or dealing with the proceeds of crime. We try to understand the mechanisms used to defraud people and identify the parties involved, the flow of funds and how the proceeds of crime are used. We also try to find if there’s unexplained wealth.”

Once Hoque has examined the evidence collected he needs, he prepares an expert statement for the court, and if need be, appears as an expert witness to be grilled on his findings.

He says there is a growing demand for his skillset. “We can see from the media every day that financial crime, with its many faces, is growing, it’s been growing over the last couple of decades. With the improvement in technology it has now gone cross-border as well. It’s no surprise that we are seeing more and more advertisements in the public sector and private sector for forensic accountants or people with expertise in the area.”

Hoque says people often hear his job title and the organisation he works for and assume he is cracking cases CSI-style.

“I get that a lot, from family and friends,” he says. “They ask me if I’m linked to the FBI. I think that perception comes from the word ‘forensic’. The term forensic generally means suitable for use in a court of law."

He says anyone considering a career in forensic accounting must have certain skillsets and personality traits to be successful.

"You have to have a very good understanding of accounting concepts, standards and principles; strong analytical and investigative skills; passion for a challenge and problem solving; and a strong sense of ethics," he says. "Forensic accountants generally get to work on diverse range of matters which also means faster personal and professional development opportunities. 

“The work I do is definitely demanding and challenging and can be daunting at times. But at the end of the day it’s intellectually rewarding for me.”

Kazi Hoque
Master of Professional Accounting, 2008