On the frontline against fraud in war zones

There’s an old adage which says the first casualty of war is always truth.

For Tangiers International’s specialised team of investigators, this can present a problem.

Its global network of case managers and field agents operate in dozens of remote or dangerous locales, whether wracked by armed conflict or merely severe developmental issues.

When the injury or death of a civilian military contractor is reported, it’s their responsibility to ensure every detail is verified, every stone unturned.

However, sometimes this can lead to surprising outcomes.

In one particular case in Afghanistan, several deaths had been reported by Afghan-national staff working for a foreign contractor.

Tangiers was instructed to investigate the claims and began by attempting to make contact with the families or beneficiaries of the deceased men.

Field agents soon stumbled across several red flags.

Tim Crabtree, accounts director for Tangiers and former case manager, said: “In one particular case, we began to make phone calls to relatives and when we did we were told that this person was working in a restaurant in a different province of Afghanistan.

“We called him and he conveyed to us that he was very much alive.

“We contacted another family and they had not heard of him being killed at all. In other cases, we could not verify that they were real people.”

Due to infrastructural problems, operating in countries like Afghanistan means the most basic verification methods can prove difficult, regardless of malicious intent.

Standard means of differentiating one individual from another – identification documents or passport numbers, addresses, even consistent names – are often lacking. And the realities of modern warfare mean lines of communication can be precarious.

“[A civilian contractor] might give you a phone number but maybe it’s a phone which is used by 20 people,” said Tim. “You call and they say ‘I do not know that person’. Also, the Taliban were controlling the cell towers at that time, so they might turn them off for days at a time.

“There are a lot of variables you go through, but you have got people on the ground who can sit through all this and are able to get the information needed.”

These field agents – often hailing from the same provinces as the claimants themselves – are a crucial tool for Tangiers, allowing investigation work to be carried out in a diligent and efficient manner.