“James, I hope you realise how serious this is…” says inspector Sam. Sam is in charge of the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) down at the Wellington police station. He’s leading the investigation on the fallout from project “ickyweb”. The interview room at the Wellington police station is bare and cold, much like how Hollywood portrays it. Sam doesn’t fit the stereotype of a “donut munching” policeman. He has the physique of a fit athlete and he doesn’t look a day over thirty – though I suspect he is probably pushing mid-fifties. It takes years of experience in the NZ police force before one is considered for a police inspector position. Sam doesn’t look like someone you would want to mess with; in fact, this applies to most of the officers I’ve seen at the Wellington police station. They are a fit and well-built bunch, both male and female officers. I find it reassuring to know that I am in good hands if I ever find myself in a situation where physical intervention is required.
It wasn’t that long ago that I considered joining the NZ Police force after finishing Uni. Like most graduates, I had trouble deciding on a career path after completing my degree. Joining the NZ police sounded like an exciting opportunity and promising career path for someone like me. The job was well paid and exciting – no two days were the same and I would have been able to contribute to the community by helping people in need. My dreams quickly turned south when I found out about the requirements for the Physical Competency Test (PCT, aka the fitness test), as part of the recruitment process. Truth be told, I was just too lazy to train myself to pass the fitness test. I was after immediate gratification and the thought of spending six months at the police academy didn’t sound appealing. Sometimes I wonder what my life would be like if I had chosen to go down that career path. I certainly wouldn’t be here, well at least I wouldn’t be on this side of the table – the one being interrogated.
Sam brings me a cup of coffee to try and ease me into the interview. The coffee is lukewarm, coarse, and bitter. Nasty stuff. I can feel the caffeine rushing through my veins as I take my first sip. Well at least my hard earned tax money isn’t going into supplying premium tea and coffee for the NZ Police force (not that they don’t deserve better tea or coffee for their hard work!). This reminds me of my first “proper” job as a public servant. Even though the organisation was obliged to provide tea and coffee for all workers as per our employment contract, they opted to supply the cheapest stuff they could find. Some of my colleagues call it “billy tea and coffee”, in reference to the horrible / cheap tea one would brew during a camping trip. My mind starts to wander, thinking about various ways an organisation can cut costs and save money, and weighing up how it might affect the workers. I also think about how most people don’t really care about the quality of tea and coffee during a camping trip. Everything is relative, I suppose.
“Please start from the beginning James… tell me how you got involved in this mess”, Sam interrupts. I’m not sure if Sam wants details that are specific to project “ickyweb” or about my time at the organisation. I decide to start from the time I was hired. I figure Sam will ask me to skip along if he only wants details that are specific to the project “ickyweb” fallout. This will also give me a chance to explain the circumstances in which I was hired for the position and how I was roped into championing project “ickyweb”. Hopefully this will give Sam a bit of background about what has happened, as well as make him consider the fact that I may have been set up as the fall guy for project “ickyweb”.
Sam begins taking notes as I talk about my time at the organisation. He scribbles on his legal pad, nodding every now and then as I speak. I am not entirely sure which part of my story Sam finds interesting or relevant. I talk about how I landed the job, how I excelled in every single KPI, and how I moved up the ranks and eventually championed project “ickyweb”. I also explain how “ickyweb” displaced the entire operations team, which caused an organisation wide restructuring that upset many people. Sam doesn’t interrupt me while I speak, or try to drive the conversation towards any particular topic or direction. He lets me tell my side of the story. I find this to be rather peculiar as I thought he would try and frame the interview in a particular way just to get answers that he wanted. Maybe I’ve watched too much TV, where police officers tend to play “good cop, bad cop” just to squeeze a confession out of a suspect.
Sam starts asking questions after I have given him a full account of my time at the organisation. Most of his questions are just to clarify a few details here and there; like asking about the roles of some employees within the organisation and how project “ickyweb” managed to replace the entire operations team. There were a few odd questions relating to how ickyweb works in technical terms, but nothing out of the ordinary.
“James, it sounds like you have accomplished quite a bit… I am impressed. I am also surprised that you haven’t tried to capitalise on ickyweb on a bigger scale. You certainly had the opportunity to do so. Tell me, why fraud? Why did you manipulate the financial data?”
“Fraud?” “Financial data manipulation?” I am confused. What is Sam talking about? Is this why I am being investigated by the police and the commerce commission? My heart begins to race and I can feel a knot in my stomach. Dozens of thoughts go through my mind as I try to work out how “ickyweb” got caught up in the middle of a financial fraud investigation. Even though I designed the system, I have no idea how this is possible – sure, I was asked to modify the code to drive up profit, but fraud?
“James?” Sam looks at me, expecting an answer. “I um…” I open my mouth to speak, but I can’t think of anything to say. I am confused. I didn’t realise I was being investigated for fraud. How is this possible? I can feel the sweat dripping down my forehead as I try to work out how this might have happened. I am about to tell Sam that I have no idea what is going on when someone knocks on the door. Another police officer walks into the room and starts talking to Sam. I can’t quite work out what they are saying, but they keep glancing at my direction.
“James, I am afraid we have to put you under arrest”.
**End of Chapter 3**