The IT business in Ukraine, as in the whole world, develops and expands the range of products and services, penetrates into various industries, creates new jobs and increases revenues. Successful IT companies pay competitive salaries to employees, decent wages to contractors, and high taxes to the government. That is, they receive a significant profit. And profit, as you know, always attracts the attention of people who want to get rich illegally at the expense of others. Unfortunately, there are frequent cases when the threat to the IT business comes not from the criminal world, but from those who, it would seem, should protect – from the law enforcement agencies. Taking into account the peculiarities of the law enforcement system of Ukraine, among others, the reason for the special attention of law enforcement agencies may be:
- an internal belief that crimes are really being committed in the IT company. This happens most often due to a total misunderstanding of the essence of the products produced or sold by the company, the services provided, the processes of their creation;
- the desire to “make an indicator” – to report on a successfully solved crime. Unfortunately, the “stick-and-check” internal system of evaluating the work of law enforcement agencies has not yet been eradicated, and in order to improve the statistics of their activities, law enforcement officers often resort to abuses and other blatantly illegal actions;
- orders from competitors, enemies of business owners, and the like. Dishonest market players sometimes “buy problems” for their competitors. There are cases when personal conflicts of business owners become the reason for “referral” of law enforcement agencies to them for a “reward”;
- provoking to provide illegal benefits (bribes) to law enforcement officers.
Regardless of the reasons why law enforcement agencies are interested in your company, most often they act “tough”, taking full advantage of the state’s monopoly on the use of force and coercion. This is done to prevent possible future resistance of the company and its representatives. The goal is to cut off attempts to defend one’s rights and perform actions imposed by security forces.
The most unpleasant methods of influencing the entire company at once are the detention of management, seizure of all company accounts and searches. Security forces in balaclava masks will break into your company, where everything is ordered and fixed, where each of the employees or contractors-individual entrepreneurs works calmly, will occupy all the office premises and will begin to search – turn everything over, break, “remove” (and in fact, just take away) not only important office equipment for the company but also personal belongings of everyone present – mobile phones, notebooks, notes, etc. During the search of the premises, for greater intimidation of individuals, a personal search may be conducted. Taking some of those present to the side or to another room for a “conversation” or to extract explanations is a classic technique. During such communication, law enforcement agencies always try to explain that “they know everything”, “the company or the management are criminals”, “soon everyone will be imprisoned”, but there is a chance to get rid of problems if you “tell them everything”, answer all questions and show where what they are interested in is stored. Often, the security forces, taking advantage of the stress of the participants, do not enter all seized property into the search protocol, so that later there is no reason to believe that such property was seized at all and not to return it. Or they make it so that it is impossible to identify such property and demand its return. Unfortunately, cases are known when during searches they simply steal everything they like. There may be other “formats” of conducting a search in your company – from damage or destruction of property or physical and moral-psychological violence to the destruction of individual elements of the premises (for example, tearing down plinths, sockets or opening ventilation or other technological shafts) to “search” for hidden things and documents”.
Quite often, after such an unexpected visit, the company is left with a completely destroyed office, from which all the equipment necessary for work has been “removed”, an intimidated team in shock or even with moral (or physical) injuries, the prospect of further communication with law enforcement agencies, and completely stopped business…
Dozens of policies can be drawn up with legal details and norms of the statutory search procedure, comments on them and advice. But all of them will become useless at the moment when special agents break down the door of your company’s premises, and everyone present will be threatened with the use of weapons and special equipment. In such a situation, disputes and references to the norms of the law and human rights will only cause an increase in aggression and possible physical violence. If they come to you with a search and neither you, nor the employees of the company, nor the contractors-individual entrepreneurs, nor your office equipment are ready for it, then the only successful course is to find an opportunity and notify your lawyer. This can be difficult because although the right to professional legal assistance during a search is established by the current legislation of Ukraine, the security forces forbid everyone to make phone calls and monitor the actions of all persons present. But if this can be done, then there is a chance to minimize the consequences of such an action and mitigate its implementation. Having arrived at the scene of the search, lawyers can try to at least partially record illegal actions and mistakes of law enforcement officers, remind them of possible responsibility, monitor the correctness and completeness of recording all seized property in the search protocol, and take other actions to protect your rights and property.
It should be noted that even if, for some reason, the search is not conducted as described in this article, its consequences can be no less destructive for the company’s work. Of course, the level of discomfort during such an investigative action always depends on the purposefulness of the security forces, their legal awareness, imagination and other things. But the main goal is to put the business in the most unpleasant conditions in order to force it to comply with its further demands – legal or illegal.
Despite all the gloomy prospects, in fact, all the negative consequences of a search can be prevented by careful preparation for such a possible investigative action. All preventive and preparatory measures for this can be conditionally divided into two large groups – technical and organizational.
Organizational ones include:
- development and implementation of written instructions in the event of a search with a clear algorithm of actions for various categories of persons present in the company’s premises;
- regular briefing of all persons, at least periodically present in the company’s premises, regarding behavior during a possible search;
- early conclusion of a contract on legal assistance with a bar association;
- appointment of the person responsible for communication with law enforcement agencies during the search, and the queue of persons who will perform this function in case of absence (substitution);
- appointment of the person responsible for informing lawyers in the event of a search, and the queue of persons who will perform this function in case of absence (substitution);
- implementation of the “clean desktop policy” for all persons present in the company’s premises;
- development of an individual procedure for access to the premises of the company;
- implementation and replenishment of the reserve target cash fund of the company for urgent restoration of working capacity and coverage of possible physical damage caused by law enforcement agencies during the search;
- introduction or involvement of office physical security personnel or at least a video surveillance operator to document the actions of persons present at the search;
- implementation of system monitoring in all possible sources of events regarding the company and related persons;
- other organizational measures depending on the organizational structure of the business, placement of people in the premises and other individual characteristics of the company.
Technical measures include:
- establishment of several stages of physical access to the company premises (intermediate buffer premises);
- installation of modern doors and locking systems between all premises of the company;
- installation of modern means of preventing access on the windows of the company’s premises;
- installation of a video surveillance system for the approaches to the company’s premises and windows and for the company’s premises inside (especially hidden ones) with the storage of video recordings on remote servers and the corresponding warning signs-notifications;
- implementation of a system of work and interaction of the company’s employees and contractors, as well as storage of any information on remote servers or cloud storage and a multi-level system of access to such servers and storage in such a way that all “sensitive” information for the company is stored outside the company’s premises and outside the office equipment, and access to it was possible remotely from accounts;
- introduction of segmentation of “sensitive” information for the company and restriction of access to it by persons who do not need it for the direct performance of work or provision of services;
- other technical measures depending on the location and buildings where the premises are located and other individual characteristics of the company.
If a search has already taken place in your company, you should definitely contact lawyers for a legal analysis of this event, its consequences, possible prospects of a pre-trial investigation, planning of further communication with law enforcement agencies and a possible return of seized property.
Smartsolutions lawyers have significant experience in defense and representation in criminal proceedings and communication with law enforcement officers. We will help to develop and implement preventive measures that minimize the possible consequences of a search in your company, and in case of unexpected “guests”, we will arrive at your place in time to accompany the investigation and protect the interests of your business. The lawyers of our company will also help to analyze the consequences of the search that has already taken place and to return the unjustly seized property, as well as to build an effective strategy for further actions in criminal proceedings, neutralizing negative consequences for the company and individuals.