Investigative Resources Worldwide

May 6 21:00 2002 Leroy Cook Print This Article

... ... ... ... ... on over 33,000 ... agencies ... the ... majority of these are part time agencies operated by people with good credenti

Investigative Resources Worldwide

ION maintains information on over 33,Guest Posting000 investigative agencies throughout the world.
The majority of these are part time agencies operated by people with good credentials,
skills and abilities. They are capable and available but being very small lack the
resources for far reaching marketing. Although they might be the best resource for a
given job, they are difficult for clients to locate when needed. The actual ION Network of
investigators we know the most about and to whom we refer 85% of the cases includes
over 500 members in 37 countries. Being full time is not a criteria for belonging to ION's
Network but, operating in a professional manner with integrity is at the top of the list. The
scope of ION's Resource Line was expanded from nationwide to worldwide in 1996 and
currently, 10% of the more than 300 referrals made each month are to investigators
outside the U.S.

Private investigation does not delegate well. The majority of investigation agencies are
small. Many have only one or two investigators. There are almost as many models for a
private investigation business as there are full time agencies. The private investigation
agencies around the world have more things unique about them than they do things in
common. This makes selecting a foreign local investigator you have confidence in
difficult.

With each international referral, we learn more about the available resources in other
countries and how their rules, regulations and customs differ from ours. In certain
countries, for example, getting something done in certain months can be an extra
problem because nearly all the businesses in the country close down for the entire
month and everyone goes on holiday. Countries with certain religious cultures have
holidays that sometimes last for days. Some of what we consider public records in the
U.S. are not only non public in other countries but illegal to obtain without proper
authorization. The practice of payments to government officials known by several
names such as: "grease", baksheesh or la mordida, must be dealt with. The Foreign
Corrupt Practices Act apparently does not prohibit all "bribe" type payments. According
to Phoenix international trade attorney, Frank G. Long, there is an exception that allows
payments, gifts or promises to be made for "facilitating or expediting" any "routine
government action" whether "by a foreign official, political party or party official."

In the U.S. the cost of investigation ranges from $35.00 an hour with no minimum to over
$100.00 an hour. Strong competitive pressures in the U.S. keep the cost of investigation
low compared to other professions. Internationally, the cost of using an investigator is
generally higher than in the U.S. Even in many countries where wages and earnings are
low by American standards, investigation costs more.

In years past, clients in countries where private investigation is common, have
occasionally needed investigative services in one of the countries where private
investigation is not common. They have called associates and asked around until they
came up with the name of an investigator in the target country or in an adjoining country.
Much like in the U.S, when they tried to make contact with local investigators the phone
numbers were frequently disconnected. If the needed work was crucial, price became a
non-factor in deciding whether or not to hire whatever investigator could be found who
was available to do the work. The client ended up hiring an investigator from the U.S. or
another location almost as remote from the work. The cost of sending someone from
another country is very high. It is made even higher because the non local investigators
usually don't have the local knowledge or connections to avoid lost time.

Agencies received cases that under domestic circumstances would have earned
hundreds of dollars. When worked internationally, the equivalent cases earned
thousands. Sensing big money, they sent investigators to set up satellite offices in
foreign locations. Establishing a foreign national in an office is expensive so
consequently, the new offices did not reduce the high cost of investigations in the
countries they were in. High fees for non domestic investigations have discouraged
clients from investigating many things that should be investigated, and the volume to
support the remote offices usually failed to develop. With a high failure rate of foreign
outpost offices and clients reluctance to commit high fees for routine cases, investigation
facilities have developed slowly in most non western countries. The problem of locating
a competent local investigator in a remote place for a once in a lifetime need had not
changed much until ION expanded the Resource Line to Worldwide. Fees for
international investigations that have traditionally been very high are showing signs of
becoming more competitive.

Last year, during one of our trips to find investigative resources in other countries, we met
with several investigators in Bangkok, Thailand. The two most notable were good
examples of what can be found in many countries. One was located in an expensive
high rise building in the city center. The manager was an employee of a large
investigation/security firm based in another country. He was professional and appeared
well qualified. That office has since been closed. The second agency was located on
the outskirts of Bangkok in a single story building with small, Asian type cubicles. The
principal was local but spoke fluent English. He explained they also do collection work
and it was obvious the business was a going concern. He expressed reservations
about doing work for foreign clients without money up front but said he would work with us
to allow us to gain knowledge of each other. We have referred several cases to this
agency with good results and the fees charged have been reasonable. The same type
of progress is being made in many other countries.

Another factor that causes foreign investigations to be difficult and expensive is the
difficulty of establishing trust with someone unknown. A foreign investigator who receives
a request for investigation usually does not respond in the way most clients are used to.
In the U.S. work is usually commenced on a verbal agreement. Foreign investigators
generally want detailed instructions, in response to which they quote a fee for the job
which they expect to receive before beginning the work. Considering their problems
collecting from a foreign bureaucracy when a check gets "lost in the mail", their position
is understandable. The investigation process is non-linear and since it is impossible to
know exactly what any investigation is going to involve until it is completed, flat fees
quoted before work starts are usually based on the worst possible scenario. An
investigation that, in the U.S. would cost $2,000 worked by the hour, would probably be
quoted at a flat fee of $5,000 or more in most foreign countries. As confidence between
clients and the foreign investigative professionals increases, this disparity can be
reduced. We are already seeing more reasonable fees from the countries we refer
cases to regularly.

ION's Resource Line is bringing better competition to this overpriced market, but it will
take time and a volume of cases to bring about a system fair for both clients and local
investigators. We will continue building the database and trust relationships because the
only alternative is for clients to hire agencies that charge substantially more than
competent locals charge. When ION is unable to provide the needed resources in a
foreign country, the client is so advised and put in contact with the best alternative in the
U.S. or some other country.

Copyright © 2000 by ION Incorporated - ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

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About Article Author

Leroy Cook
Leroy Cook

Leroy Cook worked as a private investigator for over 15 years and is presently President of ION Incorporated, a worldwide referral service for private investigators.

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