A person residing out of the U.S. may hide assets in the U.S. because he/she is being sued for divorce outside of the U.S. or because of other lawsuits outside of the U.S. This person could hide assets by secretly: purchasing real estate in the U.S.; opening bank accounts in the U.S.; titling property in the names of shell companies formed in the U.S.; etc. How can you search for assets which are hidden in the U.S.? If the hidden assets are connected to a lawsuit outside the U.S., (& you are an interested person in this lawsuit), you might subpoena witnesses in the U.S.

You would try to collect evidence about the hidden assets by issuing subpoenas to witnesses who know about the assets. These witnesses can be: banks;  gatekeepers like lawyers & accountants; businesses which establish shell companies (i.e. nominee incorporation services); relatives of the person hiding assets; etc. You may apply for subpoenas pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §1782 in the U.S. District Court which possesses personal jurisdiction over the witnesses; and as set forth at Fed.R.Civ.P. 45. At your application filed in the U.S. District Court, you would also show you need to subpoena the witnesses because of your lawsuit outside the U.S.

In the Ex-Parte Application of June Wu, Ms. Wu a Taiwanese national, sought permission from the U.S. District Court in Delaware to issue subpoenas under 28 U.S.C. §1782. Ms. Wu apparently deposited $3 million into a bank account in Taiwan for a prospective investment in the Delaware company Tagboard, Inc.  Ms. Wu’s $3 million was then allegedly embezzled out of Taiwan & supposedly transferred to Tagboard, Inc’s bank account in the U.S. At its 9/13/17 Order, the U.S. District Court authorized Ms. Wu’s attorney to serve subpoenas about the $3 million.  The Order permits Ms. Wu’s attorney to elicit evidence by using subpoenas including this one:

(Click On The Image To View The Complete Subpoena)

Image of Map: Thitirat J13/Shutterstock.com

A person hiding assets from you could park their money in an offshore bank account & hire an intermediary to be the account’s bank signatory. One website offers this “Bank Nominee Signatories Service” for a cost of about $1000 per year.  This person could additionally title their real estate in the name of shell companies. A person can also hide assets by converting cash into portable valuable commodities like diamonds and smuggle the diamonds offshore.

This kind of scheme is outlined by “Detecting Hidden Assets By Following A Money Trail.”  “Searching For Assets Hidden By Lawyers” examines another way to hide assets.  It explains a person might hide their cash by laundering it through a lawyer. In these kinds of schemes the person hides his/her true beneficial ownership of assets. You may be able to detect  true beneficial ownership & search for assets 3 ways:

I. Collecting human intelligence/informants’ tips is sometimes the only practical way to detect a sophisticated scheme to hide assets.  If there is an informant with knowledge of the hidden assets, the informant might be willing to tip you about the assets.  This informant may be a disgruntled: employee; family member; paramour; etc.

II. Private investigators may help you identify informants & gather leads about hidden assets through surveillance or other surreptitious means. Some investigators however, search for assets illegally or provide spurious information. Ex-Toronto private investigator Elaine White & ex-police detective Cullen Johnson for example, ran an “asset locator” business. They supplied their clients with bogus bank account information.

III. Legal tools can be critically important in searching for assets.  “How Does A Divorcing Spouse Recover Assets Concealed In A Swiss Bank Account?” gives a glimpse of the kinds of tools generally available in many countries across the globe. Among other things, the tools can include serving letters rogatory upon foreign bank witnesses & tipping prosecutors or other governmental authorities.

Image: Farizum Amrod Saad/Shutterstock.com

 Copyright 2017 Fred L. Abrams

Like the IRS & SEC you can sometimes search for assets by using whistleblower tips, my October 3rd program explains.

A) PROGRAM DESCRIPTION

At the New York County Lawyers’ Association on October 3, 2017 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 3rd 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 3rd 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. In addition to others he has represented,  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.  Furthermore, Mr. Blum appeared on the CBS/60 Minutes television show to discuss the foregoing.  He will similarly discuss these matters at the October 3rd 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.

ThomasLabaton & Sucharow partner Jordan A. Thomas will also speak at the October 3rd 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.

Photo Charles Bott

Charles Bott QC, Head of Carmelite Chambers in the United Kingdom, is a recognized authority on financial crime and its regulation.  Subject to his availability, Mr. Bott may travel to New York to speak at the October 3rd program. 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.

Continue Reading Whistleblowers, Secret Swiss Bank Accounts & Recovering Hidden Assets

Beneficial Ownership Post
Spouses can hide assets through layering & fraudulent transfers, this 35th Post in the “Divorce & Hidden Money” series says.

According to The Financial Action Task Force anti-money laundering group:

Beneficial owner refers to the natural person(s) who ultimately owns or controls a customer and/or the natural person on whose behalf a transaction is being conducted. It also includes those persons who exercise ultimate effective control over a legal person or arrangement. Glossary of the FATF Recommendations, Web. July 10, 2017.

A divorcing spouse may conceal his/her beneficial ownership of community property by titling: bank accounts; real estateart; etc. in the name of an intermediary (i.e. a nominee). The divorcing spouse secretly controls these assets while the nominee appears to own them. The nominee acts as a protective layer which hides the divorcing spouse’s beneficial ownership of assets.

Protective layers can be comprised of: nominees; offshore bank accounts; multiple jurisdictions; shell companies; trusts; & gatekeepers. The layering is the first clue a divorcing spouse could be concealing beneficially owned assets. The second clue a divorcing spouse is concealing assets would be the divorcing spouse’s fraudulent transfers. To detect fraudulent transfers look for the badges of fraud, as more fully set forth at “An Asset Search When Money Is Hidden Offshore.”

Image: kentoh/Shutterstock.com

Copyright 2017 Fred L. Abrams

Money Laundering Typology Post

One way to learn how to search for hidden assets is to read “A Laundry List For An Asset Search.” Another way is to study money laundering typologies. Money laundering typologies are used by law enforcement and regulators to develop countermeasures against emerging criminal trends. “100 Cases from the Egmont Group” contains a wide variety of money laundering typologies.¹ Although “100 Cases from the Egmont Group” arises from data collected during the 1990s, it is still relevant today. “100 Cases from the Egmont Group” describes these methods for concealing assets:

  • Concealment within existing business structures
  • Misuse of legitimate businesses
  • Use of false identities, documents or straw men
  • Exploiting international jurisdictional issues
  • Use of anonymous asset types

Below is the money laundering typology “Example B: Limited edition jewellery.”² It is about an agent who participated in an auction for a diamond necklace. The agent tried to conceal monies from suspected frauds by using multiple jurisdictions; offshore bank accounts & a portable valuable commodity—a diamond necklace.

Example B Limited editon jewellery

¹”100 Cases From The Egmont Group” courtesy of The Egmont Group of Financial Intelligence Units.

²“Example B: Limited edition jewellery” courtesy of The Guernsey Financial Services Commission.

First Image: studiostoks/Shutterstock.com

Copyright 2017 Fred L. Abrams

Back to Back Loan Image

Money Laundering, Marital Assets & Divorce was my first Asset Search Blog post highlighting back-to-back loans (i.e. a fully collateralized loan in which the borrower and the lender are one and the same). That post mentioned a divorcing husband who hid millions from his wife and the IRS, by claiming he was indebted because of an arm’s length business loan. The husband’s claim about owing money to an arm’s length lender was false, as the loan was back-to-back. In other words, the husband hid millions by secretly arranging to be both the borrower and lender of the loan; and by pretending to be in debt.

Federal prosecutors similarly discussed back–to-back loans in their tax fraud case against Los Angeles, California businessman Masud Sarshar. According to prosecutors, Mr. Sarshar hid tens of millions of dollars from the IRS by using two back-to-back loans and offshore bank accounts in Israel and Hong Kong. Mr. Sarshar supposedly maintained the offshore bank accounts in the names of intermediaries (i.e. nominees). Prosecutors also said an Israeli banker delivered offshore bank account statements to Mr. Sarshar by smuggling them into the U.S. on a USB drive hidden in a necklace.

To avoid being flagged as an American by the offshore banks, Mr. Sarshar is believed to have used Israeli and Iranian passports to open his offshore accounts. When Mr. Sarshar mentioned his offshore accounts during conversations with his Israeli bankers, Mr. Sarshar also reportedly spoke in code. On 3/13/17 Mr. Sarshar was sentenced to 24 months in prison for conspiring to defraud the U.S. and for seeking to impair/impede administration of internal revenue laws. Mr. Sarshar’s 8/1/16 plea agreement can be read here.

Image: Ionut Catalin Parvu/Shutterstock.com

Copyright 2017 Fred L. Abrams

computer research

Full-blown asset searches rely on computer-based research; private investigators; and human intelligence from depositions, witness interviews and informant’s tips. Computer-based research is also the cornerstone of most kinds of asset searches. This research may track the ownership of assets ranging from valuable automobiles to patents or other intellectual property.

An Asset Search Via Data Brokers Like IDI, Inc.” is one of my posts about computer-based research. “A Low-Cost Asset Search” meanwhile, discusses how you can try to find hidden assets by using computer-based research.¹ “A Low-Cost Asset Search” even mentions some asset searches you can perform for free. Another free computer-based research tool is the Corporationwiki website.

Corporationwiki identifies relationships between people and corporations. It and other computer-based research might help you spot intermediaries, (i.e. nominees), suspected of hiding a beneficial owner’s assets. Prosecutors in Warsaw, Poland used Corporationwiki in at least one case in 2009, to try to detect assets hidden through an alleged money laundering scheme. This particular case & the prosecutor’s use of Corporationwiki, is mentioned at page 2 of the request for legal assistance/letter rogatory available below.

(CLICK ON THE IMAGE TO READ THE LETTER ROGATORY)

2009 Letter Rogatory Poland

¹“A Low-Cost Asset Search” contains material courtesy of  L.L. Jones, Concealing Assets In Bankruptcy: What Are the Consequences And How Do Trustees Find The Assets?, Association of the Bar of the City of New York (Presentation: April 24, 2008).

First image: courtesy of Flickr (Licensed) by Jennie

Copyright 2017 Fred L. Abrams

3 HInts About Asset Searches

A divorcing spouse; judgment creditor; bankruptcy creditor; or a beneficiary under a trust or will; may face an adversary hiding assets through nominees (i.e. intermediaries). See cf., Fourth Inv. LP v. United States, 720 F.3d 1058, 1070 (9th Cir. 2013) (six-part test for nominee ownership applied to tax lien case). An adversary can hide real estate, automobiles, jewelry; and offshore bank accounts by titling them in the names of nominees. Nominees are easily accessed through nominee incorporation services like the one at the “Anonymous Panama Corporation” webpage.

The “Anonymous Panama Corporation” webpage can be used to form a Panamanian shell company with “nominee directors.” The initial fee for this service is $1200. The webpage suggests that one can “save taxes or protect…assets” by forming a Panamanian shell company:

[Y]our personal information will not be available in any government records, but [sic] still maintain complete control over your corporation. The Nominee Directors will not have control over your corporation and can be replaced at any time.

This type of corporation is a good choice if your objective is to save taxes or protect your assets. The actual owner of this corporation is not registered in public records.

Shell companies are not the only things that can be utilized as nominees. Lawyers; accountants; bankers; financial advisors; paramours; family members and trusts can be nominees. In the criminal prosecution called USA v. James S. Faller II, Case #: 13−cr−00029, the Court discussed how a nominee trust could be part of a scheme to hide assets from the IRS. Pages 13-14 of the Court’s 4/30/15 Memorandum Opinion and Order highlighted Mr. Faller’s alleged misuse of nominees.

Mr. Faller from Russell Springs, Kentucky, relied on “nominee names” to evade taxes, an IRS Special Agent’s affidavit claimed at ¶68. Prosecutors argued Mr. Faller evaded taxes by titling his home and bank account in the name of a trust believed to be Mr. Faller’s nominee. Mr. Faller was convicted of tax fraud and on 1/29/16 Mr. Faller was sentenced to 36 months’ imprisonment. Although Mr. Faller appealed his conviction, the U.S. Court of Appeals upheld the conviction at a 1/10/17 Opinion.

Image: Robert Kneschke/Shutterstock.com

Copyright 2017 Fred L. Abrams

12 8 16 Post
This 34th post in the “Divorce & Hidden Money” series highlights ways assets may be hidden in a money laundering circuit.

The November 30th New York Times Magazine article “How To Hide $400 Million” described the divorce between Sarah Pursglove & Finnish internet tycoon Robert Oesterlund. A document from Mr. Oesterlund’s lender allegedly indicated Mr. Oesterlund’s net worth was $400 million, “How To Hide $400 Million” said. This article also said Mr. Oesterlund claimed during the divorce that the ‘net family property’ was only worth a few million dollars.

Ms. Pursglove however, did not believe this and tried to search for assets reportedly hidden by Mr. Oesterlund. Based on “How To Hide $400 Million,” Mr. Oesterlund was an ultra-high-net-worth spouse who allegedly hid assets through:

  1. gatekeepers (such as lawyers & bankers);
  2. multiple jurisdictions;
  3. offshore bank accounts;
  4. shell companies;
  5. & trusts.

These can all be used as laundering links which wash assets in a money laundering circuit. A money laundering circuit is shown at a chart on a webpage from FINTRAC, a Canadian financial intelligence unit. An ultra-high-net-worth spouse may place assets into a laundering circuit through: structuring bank deposits; money mules/bulk-cash smuggling; diamonds or other portable valuable commodities; false invoicing schemes (i.e. trade-based laundering); wire transfers; etc. How do you perform an asset search when these methods are used to hide assets? Click here for seven tips.

Image: red mango/Shutterstock.com

Copyright 2016 Fred L. Abrams

11 27 16 Post

2/12/17 Update: It seems that after I published this post on 11/27/16, the Jamaican Major Organized Crime and Anti-Corruption Task Force, (“MOCA”), listed Mr. Peter Sangster as a fugitive. “The people on this list are wanted for serious and or violent crimes” MOCA’s website says. 

Forty-seven-year-old Peter Sangster of Cherry Gardens, Kingston 8, Jamaica, has been a local politician and businessman in Jamaica. After Jamaican authorities subjected telephone carrier Jamus Communications Ltd., (“Jamus”), to a levy, Mr. Sangster allegedly offered to help Jamus by procuring a “waiver” of payment. Mr. Sangster supposedly supplied Jamus with this waiver which was dated 1/9/2013. The waiver appeared to be signed by the then Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller. The Prime Minister’s signature on the waiver is now however, thought to be a forgery.  It also appears that Jamaican law does not provide for a waiver of payment regarding the levy.

In exchange for allegedly supplying Jamus with the waiver, Mr. Sangster may have had Jamus transfer over $150,000 U.S. dollars to 2 bank accounts in the United States. One of the bank accounts is believed to be titled “Sangster Group LLC,” maintained at Bank of America, 515 Ocean Avenue, Brooklyn, New York. The other bank account was also at Bank of America and was thought to be titled “Peter and Tania Sangster.” Based on these allegations, MOCA investigated Mr. Sangster to determine whether he committed a forgery and larceny.

MOCA seemed to search for assets related to Mr. Sangster. MOCA sought corporate & banking records for “Sangster Group LLC.” MOCA similarly sought records for the “Peter and Tania Sangster” Bank of America account. On 10/6/16 a court in Delaware issued an order on behalf of MOCA, permitting a prosecutor to collect these records. The order authorized the prosecutor to gather the records listed on pp. 7-11 at the following letter rogatory/legal assistance request from Jamaica:¹

Letter Rogatory P Sangster
To Read The Letter Rogatory, Click On The Image Above

¹The letter rogatory/legal assistance request has been partly sanitized for privacy reasons.

First Image: Light And Dark Studio/Shutterstock.com

(Edited 2/12/17)

Copyright 2016 Fred L. Abrams