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International Criminal Searches

Unlike the United States, where criminal records can be easily obtained by third-party vendors for employment background checks, it can be quite challenging – and in many cases, impossible – to obtain actual criminal records overseas. Indeed, sometimes, national or local rules may block access of third-party vendors to certain information – including credit history and criminal records – and require that the individual employee or applicant obtain the records directly from the source (e.g., the credit bureau, courts or law enforcement agencies). 

If you have any doubts about what we’re are saying here, based on things you’ve been told by other background check companies, call the embassy in Washington for the respective country you are concerned about. Ask to speak with the legal attaché.  Ask them how a US employer or US based background checks company obtains REAL criminal history records from that country. You will quickly learn the truth about what kinds of information is actually accessible in other countries.

As such, an “international criminal search” by a US employer or US based background checks company is not a “criminal records search” like it would be in the US courts system. In fact, an international criminal search begins with an adverse media search, which is a search of public media sources such as news articles that may contain references to criminal activity involving the applicant. This is combined with a criminality search, which covers international databases maintained by government agencies related to fraud, corruption, corporate crime, terrorism, money laundering, extortion, notable terminations, poor character, Politically Exposed Persons and other criminal activity or unlawful conduct.

International screening information comes from many government and media sources. However, all international screening information needs to be taken with a grain of salt, due to things like name similarity, original information sources, database modifications and other considerations. Employers need to realize that information in some countries is better than in others.

Adverse media sources include news articles and social media globally, covering the following topics:

> Bribery and Corruption
> Corporate Scandals
> Crime (Non-Financial)
> Financial Crime
> Legal Process
> PEP (Prominent Corrupt)
> PEP (General)
> Sanctions (Current High Profile)
> Sanctions (General)
> Terrorism

Government data sources include:

Global Sanctions List: The Global Sanction List contains information from the most important sanction sources from around the world, which are then aggregated and grouped into one category. The Global Sanctions List offers close to 20,000 profiles of individuals and companies of the highest risk rating. Covered lists include:

> Bank of England
> Bureau of Industry and Security
> Department of State
> EU Terrorism List
> FBI Top Ten Most Wanted
> Interpol Most Wanted
> OCC Shell Bank List
> Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) Sanctions
> SDN & Blocked Entities
> Treasury PML List
> SECO List
> UN Consolidated List
> WorldBank Debarred Parties List
> CBI List
> ICE List

Global Politically Exposed Persons List: “Politically Exposed Persons” are considered high risk people and employers require enhanced due diligence when conducting business with Politically Exposed Persons, particularly in Private Banking. Financial institutions that have conducted business with PEPs without following adequate Know Your Customer procedures and enhanced due diligence processes have been hit with heavy fines. Since the events of September 11, 2001 over 100 countries have changed their Anti Money Laundering laws to fight against corruption. There has also been greater emphasis and cooperation between nations to enforce the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. While there exists no global definition for a PEP, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), U.S. Patriot Act, and the European Union (EU) Directive use similar definitions and guidelines in which the term Politically Exposed Person was typically defined by the following:

> Officials in the executive, legislative, administrative,
military, or judicial branch of a foreign government

> A senior official of a major foreign political party

> A senior executive of a foreign government or a
commercial enterprise

> An immediate family member – spouse, parents,
children – of such individuals

> Any individual publicly known to be a close personal
professional associate

While the interpretation of these guidelines varies from country to country, and there might be slight variations, the expectations for organizations doing business with Politically Exposed Person are universally similar. The following international standard applies: 1.) Identify the “Politically Exposed Persons” amongst clientele. 2.) Make sure that funds managed by an organization on behalf of the Politically Exposed Person do not derive from a corrupt source.

Global Enforcement List: The Global Enforcement List consists of information received from regulatory and governmental authorities that list the content of warnings and actions against individuals and companies, including narcotic-traffickers, money launderers, fraudsters, human traffickers, fugitives and other criminals.

How international criminal searches are processed

If no “hits” are revealed after searching adverse media sources and criminality/sanctions lists, our research will stop at this point with a report being delivered to the client, indicating “no record found.” In situations where a “hit” is revealed from any of these sources, we will advise our client to have their candidate obtain and deliver their own “Conduct Certificate” or comparable report from their local police department, consulate or embassy, wherever available. This approach avoids GDPR conflicts with the sharing of identity documents and typically results in faster turnaround by up to ten weeks.

Even with limited access to actual criminal records overseas, an international criminal search can still be a valuable tool when evaluating foreign nationals before hiring them or engaging them as independent contractors. 


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