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Investigating & Recovering Hidden Money & Other Assets

Whistleblowers, Secret Swiss Bank Accounts & Recovering Hidden Assets

Posted in Asset Search/Fraud Investigation, Divorce & Child Support, Financial Institutions, Hidden Money, Money Laundering, Securities Fraud, Swiss Banks, Tax Fraud, White-Collar Crime Generally

Photo Of A Whistle


At the New York County Lawyers’ Association on October 13, 2015 from 5:30 PM to 9:00 PM, I will be the program chair of “Whistleblowers, Secret Swiss Bank Accounts & Recovering Hidden Assets.” Attendee registration is available at the website available here or by calling the New York County Lawyers’ Association at (212) 267-6646. During the October 13th program, I highlight the use of whistleblower tips to recover hidden assets.  I show how to search for assets which can be hidden by high net worth divorcing spouses; corporations; Ponzi schemers; tax fraudsters; etc.  I talk about tools you can use to recover assets hidden in Switzerland and other places across the globe. The October 13th program also focuses on the Internal Revenue Service & Securities Exchange Commission whistleblower programs which can provide qualifying tipsters with the largest payouts compared to any other reward programs in the world.

Jack BlumWashington, D.C. attorney Jack Blum is well-known internationally for his representation of whistleblowers.  Mr. Blum will talk about Mr. Hervé Falciani, the whistleblower the media dubbed “the [Edward] Snowden of Swiss banking.”  Mr. Falciani allegedly stole Swiss bank account information from HSBC in Geneva and as a whistleblower turned the information over to French authorities. This alleged HSBC bank account information eventually fell into the hands of the International Consortium Of Investigative Journalists, which published part of it at their webpages known as the Swiss Leaks project.  This past February 8th, Mr. Blum appeared on the CBS/60 Minutes television show to discuss the foregoing.  He will similarly discuss these matters at the October 13th program and analyze: the IRS whistleblower program; problems whistleblowers face in the real world; and the difficulty lawyers may encounter in dealing with whistleblowers either as clients or tipsters.

Photo Charles Bott

Charles Bott QC, Head of Carmelite Chambers in the United Kingdom, is a recognized authority on financial crime and its regulation.  He has appeared in more than 80 serious fraud trials including some of the leading cases of recent years and advised many other clients under investigation.  Mr. Bott specializes in cases of serious fraud, money laundering and revenue evasion; and in the United Kingdom, he is regularly instructed in serious criminal cases and regulatory cases of all kinds.  At the October 13th program, Mr. Bott will talk about the LIBOR manipulation litigation in the United Kingdom, which he is involved in.  He will mention recent developments and revelations in the ongoing litigation; and will discuss the role of inside informants and cooperating witnesses in it.

ThomasLabaton & Sucharow partner Jordan A. Thomas will also speak at the October 13th program.  Mr. Thomas will discuss the Securities Exchange Commission’s whistleblower program, as he is one of the world’s leading experts on it. He will review the advantages and disadvantages of the different whistleblower programs; and the ethical concerns gatekeepers like attorneys, accountants, officers and directors have, in reporting illegal behavior in both the civil and criminal contexts.  As more fully set forth below, Mr. Thomas: is a former assistant director in the Commission’s Enforcement Division; had a leadership role in developing the Commission’s whistleblower program; and was assigned to many of the Commission’s highest-profile matters such as those involving Enron, Fannie Mae, UBS & Citigroup. Continue Reading

Divorce & Hidden Money: Suing Your Spouse For Fraudulently Conveying Assets

Posted in Asset Search/Fraud Investigation, Divorce & Child Support, Divorce & Hidden Money, Hidden Money


An asset search may reveal that your spouse is hiding assets from you during your divorce.  You might then be able to sue your spouse & possibly others for fraudulently concealing assets.  As this 25th post in the “Divorce & Hidden Money” series shows, you may be able to sue on the ground that assets were  fraudulently conveyed away from you:

Before leaving New York, the divorcing husband in Skiff-Murray v. Murray¹ fraudulently conveyed his business and former marital residence to his newly created Nevada corporation.  Violating a restraining order, the husband next conveyed the residence from his Nevada corporation to his aunt and uncle.  The aunt and uncle then mortgaged the residence to a third party.

According to the Court in Skiff-Murray, the divorcing husband had “…made it impossible for plaintiff [the wife] to enforce her judgments for child support arrears or obtain the maintenance, distribution of marital property and counsel fees awarded in the judgment of divorce.”  After the divorce was over, the now ex-wife filed a lawsuit against the aunt; uncle & others. The lawsuit alleged the residence had been fraudulently transferred.  It asked the Court to set the transfer aside under N.Y. Debt. Cred. Law. §§ 270 – 281, which is the codified version of the Uniform Fraudulent Conveyance Act. Continue Reading

An Asset Search To Find Secret Offshore Bank Accounts

Posted in Asset Search/Fraud Investigation, Bank Search, Divorce & Child Support, Financial Institutions, Hidden Money, Money Laundering, Swiss Banks, Tax Fraud


If you are a divorcing spouse, judgment creditor or anyone else who believes they may need to do a bank search to locate hidden assets parked offshore, read this post to see how individuals sometimes hide their assets.  It covers the legal remedies that may be available to you in your asset search for offshore bank accounts.  This post was first published in 2013 and was called “Hidden Assets Offshore & A Bank Search To Find Them.”

Beneficial owners around the world are able to secretly transfer assets across international borders into offshore bank accounts.  The beneficial owners sometimes do this by money laundering through multiple jurisdictions; bulk-cash smuggling; back-to-back loans; shell companies; nominee incorporation services & gatekeepers like lawyers.  Legal remedies are however, usually available for finding hidden assets transferred offshore.  These remedies may even include seeking a court order directing a Swiss or other offshore bank to perform a bank search and disclose bank customer information.


The link chart below describes how one divorcing husband concealed both undeclared revenue and marital assets via multiple jurisdictions.¹  The husband laundered millions from the U.S., through a Swiss bank and a German one.  Prior to the equitable distribution hearing in his divorce, the husband alleged he had a liability of $29 million owed to a prime bank in Germany because of an arm’s length business loan.  As this link chart reveals, the supposed arm’s length loan was back-to-back , (i.e. a fully collateralized loan in which the borrower and the lender are one and the same):

(Click On The Link Chart To Enlarge)

Continue Reading

Divorce & Hidden Money: An Asset Search For Nominees

Posted in Asset Search/Fraud Investigation, Divorce & Child Support, Divorce & Hidden Money, Hidden Money

shutterstock_226179493Many Asset Search Blog articles emphasize the role intermediaries, (i.e. “nominees”), can have in asset concealment schemes.  This 24th post in the “Divorce & Hidden Money” series reminds you that your divorcing spouse might utilize nominees to hide assets from you.

During your divorce you may need to pursue an asset search in order to determine whether your spouse concealed marital assets from you.  Asset searches sometimes include: hiring private investigators; employing forensic accountants; seeking a copy of your spouse’s passport to help look for any assets parked offshore; tracking trademarks, copyrights or other intellectual property your spouse may own; etc.

Your particular circumstances should dictate whether you pursue an asset search in these ways.  Whatever steps you take in your asset search, it is important to always look for any nominees your spouse may have used to hide marital assets.  As discussed by “Nominees & Hidden Assets,” your spouse may rely on a nominee to open a secret foreign bank account.  It is also true that one can hide or transfer almost anything through one’s nominees.

An illustration of this is the Court’s decision in  Dempster v. Overview Equities, Inc., 2004 slip op. 01149 ; 4 A.D.3d 495; 773 N.Y.S.2d 71 (2d Dept 2004).  According to the decision, the divorcing husband fraudulently transferred title to his residence to his Delaware company.  The company was the husband’s nominee.  The husband established the company and transferred his residence to it right before the asset valuation hearing in his divorce.  The transfer was the husband’s apparent attempt to prevent the residence from being partly distributed to his wife during the divorce.  Although it is a tax evasion rather than a divorce case, my article about California attorney Orion Douglas Memmott similarly highlights how real property can be transferred &/or hidden through nominees.

Image: PathDoc/Shutterstock.com

Copyright 2015 Fred L. Abrams

Divorce & Hidden Money: An Asset Search Of A Lawyer Employed To Conceal Cash

Posted in Asset Search/Fraud Investigation, Divorce & Child Support, Divorce & Hidden Money, Hidden Money

By serving a subpoena on any lawyers who helped your spouse hide assets, you can collect legal bills sent to your spouse & other documents such as those related to real estate deals.

This is the 23rd post in the “Divorce & Hidden Money” series:

What can you do if your spouse employs a lawyer in the U.S. to hide cash or other marital assets from you?  To help your spouse hide cash from you, some lawyers will place the cash in a financial account where you &/or your spouse’s identity is never given to the financial institution.  Besides maintaining this kind of secret bank account for your spouse, some lawyers may hide marital assets by titling the assets in the name of a shell company; transferring the assets offshore; etc.  “Bearer Shares & An Asset Search” reveals how a Panamanian lawyer helped a divorcing husband conceal millions of dollars from a divorcing wife.¹ The October 2013 article “Lawyer disbarred for helping client hide funds from wife in divorce, then spent the money” is about a New Jersey lawyer accused of conspiring with a divorcing husband to hide $11,000 dollars from a divorcing wife.  The Court’s 45-page decision disbarring the New Jersey lawyer is available here.

If a spouse hires a lawyer to conceal marital assets from you, during your divorce you could pursue an asset search by serving this lawyer with a subpoena duces tecum.  As a consequence of the subpoena, the lawyer may provide you with documents that have clues leading you to the hidden marital assets.  The subpoena should request copies of legal bills the lawyer sent to your spouse. See e.g Colonial Gas Co. v. Aetna Cas. & Sur. Co., 144 F.R.D. 600, 607 (D.Mass.1992) (billing records subject to discovery/nature of services not disclosed).  Although documents revealing the nature of the legal services provided are generally subject to the attorney-client privilege, some of these documents are not privileged.

To cite just one example, if a lawyer was involved in real estate deals for your spouse, many documents underlying the deals may be disclosable.  See In re Grand Jury Subpoena (Mr. S.), 662 F.3d 65, 71-72 (1st Cir. 2011) (closing statements, sales contracts, records of payment revealing source of funds, etc. are all subject to discovery).  If your spouse is using relatives, friends or other intermediaries to transfer marital assets out of your reach, your subpoena might also seek documents reflecting the source of legal fees paid to the lawyer and the identities of the attorney’s clients.  Cf.  Hanover Ins. Co. v. Rapo & Jepsen Ins. Servs., Inc., 449 Mass. 609, 619, 870 N.E.2d 1105, 1113-4 (2007) (legal fees paid & the identities of lawyer’s clients not protected by attorney-client privilege).

¹The fact pattern supplied by “Bearer Shares & An Asset Search” was sanitized & changed for privacy reasons.

Image: Ragma Images/Shutterstock.com

Copyright 2015 Fred L. Abrams

Divorce & Hidden Money: An Asset Search Based On A Passport

Posted in Asset Search/Fraud Investigation, Divorce & Child Support, Divorce & Hidden Money, Hidden Money


This 22nd post in the “Divorce & Hidden Money” series says an asset search of your spouse should include inspecting your spouse’s passport:

Did your spouse hide assets from you during your divorce by opening a secret offshore bank account or by placing valuables like diamonds in a safe deposit box offshore? Did your spouse secretly purchase real estate, art or other assets offshore?  If you believe your spouse hid assets from you in these ways, inspect your spouse’s passport.  You can request to see it during the discovery phase of your divorce.  Your spouse’s passport might reveal offshore tax havens or other places your spouse visited to hide assets.  Based on information at the passport, you may even be able to narrow your asset search of your spouse.

What if your spouse alleges he/she does not currently possess a passport?  If your spouse possesses a U.S. passport & is lying, I recommend you make two requests for passport records to the U.S. State Department (hereinafter “the Department”)— one under the Privacy Act of 1974 and the other as a Freedom of Information Act Request (hereinafter “FOIA Request”).  The best way to do this is by submitting 2 consent forms to the Department, signed by your spouse.  If your spouse refuses to sign the 2 forms and your divorce is still pending before the court, you could file a motion asking the judge to direct your spouse to sign the forms.

The 1st consent form is the Department’s “Form DS-4240, Certification of Identity”.  The DS-4240 form & instructions explaining how to file it with the Department, are available here.  The 2nd consent form is the Department’s “Authorization For The Release Of Records To Another Individual.”  An example of this 2nd form is available here with instructions about filing it as a FOIA Request.  By filing these forms with the Department, you can get copies of your spouse’s past passport applications; issued passports; etc.  Although these passport records will not have border stamps/border crossing markings on them, you will be able to demonstrate your spouse lied about possessing a U.S. passport.

Image: Courtesy of Flickr (Licensed) by Mike Dierken

Forms & filing instructions: Courtesy of U.S. Department of State

Copyright 2015 Fred Abrams

Part 3: An Asset Search Over Terrorism & Airbus Aircraft

Posted in Asset Search/Fraud Investigation, Hidden Money

Iran & Qatar sit on the largest natural gas field in the world.  As a consequence of this, Iran may have a discreet & shared income with Qatar.

Part 1 &/or Part 2 of this post described recent efforts by the judgment creditors in Havlish v. bin Laden to collect on their judgment against Iran for more than $1.3 billion dollars.  The judgment creditors sought to attach monies allegedly connected to a deal to purchase Airbus aircraft for Iran’s Mahan Air.  The judgment creditors also issued subpoenas to U.S. Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control.  The subpoenas were about assets related to Iran and various terrorist groups.

How else might the judgment creditors proceed with their asset search & collect on their judgment against Iran?  Although the April 2nd preliminary nuclear accord with Iran lifts many economic sanctions against it, Iran had tried to skirt the sanctions throughout the years.  By recognizing ways Iran may have skirted the sanctions, the judgment creditors might detect money trails.   The judgment creditors would hopefully then be able to follow the money trails by using letters rogatory and other asset recovery tools.  This in turn could bring the judgment creditors closer to collecting on their billion-dollar-plus judgment against Iran.

Discreet Income From The World’s Largest Natural Gas Field?


Qatar sits on the largest natural gas field in the world but it also goes under Iran. This is the South Pars/North Dome natural gas field.  Wikipedia says “[a]ccording to the International Energy Agency (IEA), the field holds an estimated 1,800 trillion cubic feet (51 trillion cubic metres) of in-situ natural gas and some 50 billion barrels (7.9 billion cubic metres) of natural gas condensates.”  Iran reportedly allowed Qatar to develop its gas extraction and marketing but only with Iran’s permission.  Furthermore, nobody checks what Qatar does with its income.

It is therefore possible that Iran circumvented economic sanctions via a quiet and discreet shared income from Qatar.  As discussed last week at a Reuters article, Iran announced it will soon open up 2 additional gas operations in the South Pars Field.  The Tasnim News Agency reported that the 2 new gas operations, (i.e. refineries), should bring Iran $6 billion in annual revenue.

Iran’s Cross-Border Elements In Dubai

Iran’s particular location at the Persian Gulf also helped Iran to evade the sanctions.  In geographical terms, the Persian Gulf is dominated by Iran similar, say, to the U.S. dominating the Carribbean and Gulf of Mexico.  Iran’s geographical location made it easy for Iran to maintain cross-border elements in places like Dubai.  Iran has more companies in Dubai than anywhere else in the world excepting Iran itself.  Dubai additionally has a large expatriate population of Iranian businessmen.  So, similar to Austria during the Cold War, Dubai is a little country busy importing.  As reported at “Iran smuggles in $1 billion of bank notes to skirt sanctions” Iran also engaged in bulk cash smuggling through cash couriers & front companies in Dubai and other locations in or near the Persian Gulf.

First Image: Claudionegri79/Shutterstock.com

Second Image: Courtesy of Wikipedia (Licensed) by Alireza824

Copyright 2015 Fred L. Abrams

Part 2: An Asset Search Over Terrorism & Airbus Aircraft

Posted in Asset Search/Fraud Investigation, Bank Search, Financial Institutions, Hidden Money, Swiss Banks

shutterstock_115001698Part 1 of this post discussed the judgment creditors in Havlish v. bin Laden who are are trying to interdict assets owned by Iran.  Part 1 explained the judgment creditors sought to attach monies reportedly earmarked for the purchase of Airbus aircraft. Before seeking the attachment of the monies, the judgment creditors subpoenaed confidential information kept at U.S. Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (“OFAC”).  This confidential information could help the judgment creditors search for bank accounts or other assets Iran beneficially owns.

OFAC agreed to release the confidential information after the judgment creditors served OFAC with subpoenas & after the Court issued protective orders restricting the judgment creditors’ use of the information.  Via their subpoena dated March 2, 2015, the judgment creditors first requested confidential information about assets in the U.S. blocked at financial institutions because of economic sanctions against Iran.  This subpoena requested that OFAC provide the judgment creditors with the following:

[a]s of March 2, 2015, a list of all financial institutions holding assets in the United States that are blocked due to a nexus with the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran, its political subdivisions, and its agencies and instrumentalities, and the total such assets reported by each such institution, rounded to the nearest $100,000.

The judgment creditors next broadened their asset search by serving a May 17, 2015 subpoena on OFAC.  The May 17th subpoena requested seven categories of information from OFAC regarding: Iran’s financial accounts which had been frozen in Switzerland; financial accounts of Iran’s Mahan Air; financial accounts maintained by the Hezbollah, al Qaeda and Taliban terrorist groups; financial accounts at 3 banks in China; etc.  Click here to view the May 17th subpoena.

Image: Jim Vallee/Shutterstock.com

Copyright 2015 Fred L. Abrams

Part 1: An Asset Search Over Terrorism & Airbus Aircraft

Posted in Asset Search/Fraud Investigation, Hidden Money

Iran’s Mahan Air is thought to have used intermediaries to conceal ownership & prospective purchases of Airbus aircraft similar to the one shown above.

The Court found Iran was behind the 9/11 terrorist attacks and Iran is therefore liable for the money damages set forth by the October 2012 Order issued at In Re Terrorist Attacks On September 11, 2001, U.S. District Court, SDNY, Index No. 03-MDL-1570. The October Order also applies to Havlish v. bin Laden, U.S. District Court, SDNY, Index No. 03-cv-9848.  Pursuant to the October Order, as of March 2, 2015 Iran owed the judgment creditors from Havlish $1,362,277,844 plus interest.  These judgment creditors seem to be trying to collect part of this sum from the suspected intermediaries of Iran’s Mahan Air.  The suspected intermediaries, (i.e. nominees), include Bahar Safwa General Trading; Ali Abdullah Alhay; and possibly others.

Some of Mahan Air’s suspected nominees may have supplied Wilmington Trust Company of Delaware, with monies earmarked for the purchase of Airbus aircraft.  In an effort to attach any such monies, the judgment creditors served their writ of execution on Wilmington Trust Company.  In pursuance of their search for Iran’s assets, the judgment creditors also served Wilmington Trust Company with a June 26, 15 subpoena demanding documents about alleged efforts to purchase Airbus aircraft.  On July 17th, Wilmington Trust Company objected to the subpoena.  In a July 20th answer to the writ of execution, Wilmington Trust Company indicated it did not possess monies subject to the writ.  The July 20th answer also asserted that Delaware law codified at 10 Del. C. § 3502(b), prevented the attachment of monies directed by the writ.

Meanwhile, Mahan Air has been the subject of sanction programs since 2011, as it is linked to state-sponsored terrorism by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force & the Hezbollah terrorist group.  Under U.S. Treasury Office of Foreign Asset Control (“OFAC”) sanctions, Mahan Air was “blocked” from purchasing Airbus aircraft which had engines with U.S-made parts; U.S. persons were prohibited from new financial dealings with Mahan Air; etc.  The first 15 minutes of Episode 5 of the SanctionLaw podcast series mentions Mahan Air & the OFAC sanctions.  The Podcast features Sam Cutler who is a policy advisor at Ferrari & Associates, PC.  It also features Michael Burton, a partner at Jacobson Burton Kelley PLLC.   The podcast raises these questions about Mahan Air and its suspected nominees:

  • Had Airbus aircraft owned by Mahan Air been leased to or flown by American Airlines, as discussed by the podcast at 2:17; 2:22; 11:40-11:45?
  • Were U.S.-based companies reckless in business transactions now thought to be related to Mahan Air, given the apparent red flags discussed by the podcast at 8:30-9:10?

Copyright 2015 Fred L. Abrams

Hampering An Asset Search By Hiding Artwork & Cultural Heritage Property

Posted in Asset Search/Fraud Investigation, Hidden Money, Money Laundering
150701nyc_lg (4)

This bronze Chola statue was reportedly smuggled into the U.S & sold in 2006 with a false provenance.

A July 1, 2015 press release outlines the recovery of a Chola-period bronze statue, by U.S. law enforcement officials.   The press release mentions the 11-12th century Chola statue was stolen & smuggled into the U.S.  The statue was eventually sold with a false provenance to a collector of Asian antiquities.  A false provenance conceals the true chain of title of art or cultural heritage property.  Some therefore use a false provenance to hide their ownership of art or cultural heritage property.  These owners may also rely on third-parties to help hide art assets.

For example, during an asset search of a judgment debtor, a private investigator decided to investigate the judgment debtor’s lawyer.  The investigator suspected the lawyer was helping the judgment debtor hide assets.  The investigator then did “trash pulls” at the lawyer’s home.  During one of many trash pulls, the investigator discovered an envelope bearing the name of a climate-controlled art storage facility.  This discovery led to the interdiction of a valuable painting the judgment debtor hid at the storage facility with the help of the lawyer.

Furthermore, valuable artwork can be hidden by washing it in a money laundering circuit.  Two articles raising this issue are Dr. Doom Warns of Art-World Money Laundering in DavosChinese snap up fine art for use in laundering schemes.  Vaults at foreign banks & freeports are also sometimes used to conceal artwork/cultural heritage property.   Other common concealment methods are described in detail at the March 16, 2015 Asset Search Blog post regarding recovering art assets & cultural heritage property.  The post was written by Leila Aminedoleh, Esq. & covers these talking points:

I.   Forgeries, Illicit Imports & Smuggling
II.  Valuating Art In A Divorce
III. Art Transfers By Terrorists & Other Criminals
IV. Suing Over Art

Image: Courtesy of U.S. Department of Homeland Security/U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement

Copyright 2015 Fred L. Abrams