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Searches in companies: what to do? Questions and answers

How widespread is the practice of searches in Ukrainian and international companies? Has the number of searches increased or decreased in the last three years? Why?

According to the statistics of the State Judicial Administration, in 2020 Ukrainian courts sanctioned 71,200 searches, ie every working day the courts passed about 390 search warrants. Statistics from previous years also show an increase in searches. Therefore, searches occur frequently and searches in Ukrainian and international companies are common, especially for successful companies. 

The number of searches has increased, as it is not a problem for law enforcement officers to register criminal proceedings. Recently, they have been questioning their own employees as witnesses, which creates the illusion of gathering evidence. With extracts from tax bases and their own witnesses, investigators go to court and receive a decision on permission to conduct a search. Also, the creation of the Bureau of Economic Security and the liquidation of existing economic units in the police, SBU, tax arouse the desire of law enforcement officers to actively "work out" the business while they still have such powers. 

Do courts carefully investigate cases before ordering a search?   

The analysis of judicial practice and statistics for the past shows that the number of searches is growing. This is due to several reasons. Judges do not actually have time to check in detail what law enforcement is dealing with. Assistants ask investigators to provide them with the text of the motions in Word, in order to simply copy the text to the decision. This is certainly a terrible situation, it should not be, but it is the reality of today. The quality of judicial control is very, very low, which is why we often see in practice clearly unfounded decisions to conduct searches.

How legitimate are searches, are they made to order and on fabricated grounds?

Searches are carried out on the basis of a decision issued by the investigating judge. Therefore, it would be more appropriate to talk not about the illegality of searches, but about the unfoundedness of the rulings, because there are cases when the judge, satisfying the request of the investigator, does not even pay attention to the justification and evidence. There are many cases of “custom” searches, when competitors or business partners in the event of a corporate conflict enlist the support of law enforcement and act in the interests of one party. The grounds for the search are easy to formulate, as the courts do not conduct a thorough examination of the investigators' evidence. 

How to act competently during a search of the company's employees?

If investigators come with a search and the head of the company is not present - they need to inform the head of the visit of law enforcement and, if possible, call a lawyer. Employees should also exercise their right to remain silent and not testify in any way. You should turn off computers and remove phones from visible places. 

What not to do during searches?

First of all, do not sow panic - it is necessary to take yourself in hand as soon as possible and call a lawyer to minimize unwanted offenses by investigators. It is not necessary to hide things or documents, flash drives, mobile phones for law enforcement officers - this can provoke their seizure. Don't be ashamed to call lawyer - in such sensitive cases, only a lawyer can deter law enforcement officers from violations. 

Investigators should not be provoked - to be rude or to prevent a search by force. Law enforcement will have reason to believe that you are hiding something and they may start searching the premises more meticulously. And finally, you should not be afraid of investigators and searches - during the search, do not panic and do not tell all the secrets of the company at once: where are the important documents, passwords from the equipment or the presence of withdrawn items. 

The more organized you behave during a search, the more likely you are to gather evidence of the violation by investigators and prove it in court. If law enforcement agencies have gone beyond their powers, they should go to court and defend their rights.

What are the legal grounds for a search of the company?

If y law enforcement officers have reason to believe that certain items in the company's office, documents, information on removable media are important for the investigation of a criminal offense, they must gather evidence and prove in court that in each case such a temporary violation of property rights will be justified. These are usually cases where law enforcement officers investigate economic crimes and property crimes, and it is in such proceedings that they visit the business. 


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