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What is Suspicion?. Kevin Whelan Resident Advisor, EAG Office of Technical Assistance US Department of Treasury [email protected] General Definitions. An unresolved and unsubstantiated feeling of doubt

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What is suspicion

What is Suspicion?

Kevin Whelan

Resident Advisor, EAG

Office of Technical Assistance

US Department of Treasury

[email protected]


General definitions
General Definitions

  • An unresolved and unsubstantiated feeling of doubt

  • A feeling that something isn’t as it appears to be, or is supposed to be, or as it has been explained to be

  • The apprehension of something without proof to verify the belief

  • Suspicion implies a belief or opinion based upon facts or circumstances that do not constitute proof


Uk case law
UK Case Law

  • The Appellate Court, in ruling on an AML reporting case, said suspicion would arise when:

  • “there was a possibility which was more than fanciful, that the relevant facts existed. This is subject in an appropriate case, to the further requirement that the suspicion so formed should be of a settled nature”.

  • So …

    • The facts of suspicion do not need to be specific

      • Yet, neither the suspicion nor the explanation of circumstances should be fanciful

    • The suspicion itself does not need to be clear, or firmly grounded

    • The suspicion should not be fleeting (should be settled)


Context matters
Context Matters

  • Is a man with a knife and blood on his hands suspicious?

    • In a hospital?

    • In a butcher shop?

    • When holding the knife in a threatening posture?

    • With a crazed look in his eyes?

    • At the scene of a robbery?

  • So, context and circumstances matter as much as objective facts … the two can’t be separated

    • But … it is nearly impossible to describe all possible circumstances a priori

    • This is one reason why you won’t see a single exclusive/exhaustive list of indicators


Suspicion is not
Suspicion is not …

  • Proof!

  • Hard evidence!

  • Certainty!

  • When you report suspicion you are not reporting a crime … you are reporting a suspicion!

  • If you have knowledge of a crime, you should report it to law enforcement


When should you be suspicious
When should you be Suspicious?

  • Reporting entities would prefer a scientific formula or algorithm

    • Want to absolve themselves of the responsibility for using judgment

    • Are afraid of the consequences of using their judgment

  • However, suspicion is too dependent upon unique combinations of facts, behaviors, and circumstances

    • Even if a formula could be published, criminals would immediately be aware of the formula and would change their behavior

  • The most you can hope for are indicators and typologies

  • Beyond these, you will need to use your own expert judgment

    • Anyway, you know it when you see it!

  • Note: it can be determined after-the-fact that something should have been considered as suspicious

    • For example, this can be determined while investing financial aspects of a crime

    • More on this when we talk about reporting and risks


A good story
A Good Story?

  • If something could be true, if a plausible explanation exists, can it still be suspicious?

    • Yes!

  • This isn’t just about telling a believable story

    • It is about deciding whether the whole of the circumstances are convincing and compelling, more compelling than not, more believable than fanciful


Is it a crime to be wrong
Is it a Crime to be Wrong?

  • There is no issue of ‘wrong’ or ‘right’ when reporting a suspicion

    • So long as the suspicion is reported in good faith then the law affords protections to the reporting entity

    • It may be a crime to not report suspicions

  • It may be a crime to “tip off’ third parties about the fact of a report

    • Ideally, if the system works as designed, the subject of a report will never know of the existence of the report, even after successful prosecution

  • More on this later


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