Elite crime, which can often relate to revelations of tax frauds is not punished in the same way as more “traditional” crimes, such as theft or robberies. Moreover, this difference in treatment is explained by various factors. So says a Carla Nagels study which has been published by the Belgian review Justice et Sécurité (Justice and Security).
The researchers have been in agreement for a long time, in stating that so-called “white-collar” crime – infringements committed by business leaders – provoke a different reaction – indeed less severe – than “ordinary” crime.
This greater leniency is firstly explained by the fact that citizens consider as more serious any behaviour which causes tangible, significant and personal damage to individuals. This is very often not the case with elite infringement.
The elites also have a particular relationship with all laws made: they participate actively in their elaboration, and are more than capable of then twisting them to their advantage. So notes the doctor in criminology. When they are caught out it is, moreover, easier for them to pass off their breaches as simple errors or omissions.
The diversity of supervising authorities also plays a role in this greater leniency. The detection of infringements is sometimes managed by so-called “controlling objects”, for example compliance officers in banks. These are then specific organs, which are outside of the criminal justice system, with responsibility for reacting to given infringements.
In the end, the number of cases relating to “white-collar” criminals, which are heard by the courts is very low, and, in the majority, the punishments meted out are simply fines rather than imprisonment.