Den’s switch from crime-fighting to accountancy
Ex-detective brings his police know-how to Council
"You have to be vigilant all the time, to know the latest changes in international law and regulations, and to protect yourself against wrong-doers"
There are murky corners of the world which most people never get to see, although they may be dimly aware that they exist.
It is the criminal underworld – the secret system which exists alongside and preys upon the honest, legitimate, law-abiding economy where most citizens live.
This is the world of the dark web, of financial crime, of terrorism, dirty money, internet fraud, of smuggling, of corruption and of narcotics.
Newly-elected ACCA Council member, Den Surfraz, has seen it all close up, from his long years as a detective fighting the invisible crime which knows no borders.
In his 13 years with Mauritius Police Den operated in specialist units dedicated to financial intelligence, busting fraud and fighting drugs gangs and smuggling rackets – yet all the time he harboured a desire to go back to school to qualify as a certified chartered accountant.
‘When I was a teenager I really wanted to study, and I had my heart set on becoming an accountant,’ he said.
‘Really, I never intended to become a police officer. At school I was very good at maths, and I wanted to study finance,’ he said. ‘But when I left school I had to earn money, and university was not a serious option.
‘My father had been the sole breadwinner for our family, and it was a big family. I had six brothers and one sister. But my father retired, and then it was the job of the big brothers to take care of the rest.’
The bright young cadet caught the eye of senior officers and he was quickly promoted and co-opted for teams tasked with fighting new forms of crime. The changing demands of digital and financial crime needed new skills – which had more to do with analysing data and a forensic knowledge of business systems than old-fashioned shoe leather policing.
‘It was fascinating and worthwhile work, but after so long with the police I was looking for something new, and I returned to my first ambition, to become an accountant.’
Aged 34, Den launched a new career in finance and began studying with ACCA.
‘I was a later starter with ACCA, but it was a great move for me and it has opened up a wonderful new career,’ he said.
‘It was a natural choice because ACCA is so well-respected and so popular in Mauritius – I’d say maybe 90% of accountants here are ACCA.
‘I have loved being involved as a member of our network panel and eventually as chair, and also now with global Council.’
Den said that his blend of experience and expertise is especially valuable for ACCA now.
‘Organisations’ data, and individuals’ online security, has never been more at risk,’ he said.
"We have to ensure that our attitude to internet and financial security is cultural not procedural"
‘The pandemic has brought an explosion in remote working, and criminal elements have used to that for their own malicious purposes. In the past year phishing and other criminal systems hacks have increased to the order of about 400%.
‘It is important that accountants are data aware, and are up-to-date with security procedures and compliance. Most crucially, we have to ensure that our attitude to internet and financial security is cultural not procedural. In other words, it is part of how we operate. It isn’t just an after-thought or a tick-box exercise. We must be on top of it all the time.
‘That is part of my day job now as head of compliance at Butterfield Bank. You have to be vigilant all the time, to know the latest changes in international law and regulations, and to protect yourself against wrong-doers.’
Once a police officer, always a police officer.