When naming offshore havens for opening secret bank accounts, people usually mention Switzerland, the Cayman Islands, Liechtenstein, etc. Meanwhile, bank accounts in almost any country can be put to work to hide & place assets out of reach. “Using Multiple Jurisdictions To Launder Money” discussed a suspected scheme to bribe …
A letter rogatory is an application to a foreign tribunal. It seeks permission to serve process on or gather evidence from a foreign witness. …
This post was written by Leila A. Amineddoleh, Esq., of Amineddoleh & Associates LLC. Ms. Amineddoleh has been published extensively on issues related to art, cultural heritage, and intellectual property, and has appeared in major news outlets, including the New York Times, Forbes Magazine, TIME Magazine, and the Wall Street Journal. Ms. Amineddoleh’s post discusses how art assets may be hidden from divorcing spouses, creditors & others. It is also the 29th post at the Asset Search Blog’s “Divorce & Hidden Money” series:
In an entry that was published on this blog, I discussed the ways in which art collectors use undisclosed art holdings and valuation uncertainties to evade legal responsibilities (such as payment of tax bills of alimony to divorced spouses). Just as Audrey Hepburn’s character discovered that her husband hid his wealth in three valuable stamps in the 1963 film “Charade,” art collectors have been using their collections to hide value for years. Difficulties related to valuation arise, particularly when it becomes impossible to locate the artwork or determine the identity of the actual owner. But with breaking news about the “Panama Papers,” suspicion about art’s role in the obstruction of justice and concealment of funds has been confirmed again. Wealthy individuals are using artwork as an investment tool and they are shielding these holdings through shell companies and misleading tools. In light of these facts, the art world is once again coming under scrutiny.
The art market is one of the least regulated markets in the world, as transactions are completed without oversight, due to the nature of the trade. It is particularly shocking as the value of the art market is astronomically high. According to Art Market Report, sales of art exceeded $63.8 billion in 2015.
However, there are valid reasons for anonymity in the art world. First and foremost, secrecy is guarded due to security concerns. Whereas tens of millions of dollars in cash are difficult to walk off with, artworks are usually portable. A single lightweight canvas may be worth over $100 million, making the object vulnerable to theft. It is important to protect information about the works in private collections to limit the information available to thieves fixated on the objects.
Another reason to hide information is more personal. Collectors may not want to admit to selling works due to poor cash flow. Some owners are forced to sell works when facing financial hardships. Those individuals do not want this information to become public. At the same time, buyers may not want competing buyers to procure an overabundance of information about their purchases. Art is a personal passion, and something that some collectors do not want made public.
However, art is also used to hide assets, evade taxes, and unfairly withhold value from deserving parties (like creditors or divorcing spouses). This regrettable use of art was confirmed after the leak of the “Panama Papers.” In April, a Panamanian law firm, Mossack Fonseca, experienced a security breach and had over 11 million documents from internal files become public. Although illegal to assist someone in tax evasion, Mossack Fonseca specializes in establishing corporate structures to hide assets. The information in the leak confirmed the suspicion that wealthy individuals use shell companies to hide assets in contemplation of impending divorces or litigation.…
2008 was the first time I wrote an article mentioning hiding assets via a lawyer in Panama. The article was called “Bearer Shares & An Asset Search.” Although the facts at the article were sanitized & changed for privacy reasons, it described a divorcing husband in the U.S hiding assets from both his …
How do you hamper an asset search while hiding vast sums of money across the globe? You may be able to do this by compartmentalizing your actions. Using compartmentalization to fly under the radar is nothing new. For example, terrorists in Paris compartmentalized what they did before their heinous November 13, 2015 attack. This is …
If you are a divorcing spouse, judgment creditor or other litigant, how do you conclusively establish whether or not assets have been hidden from you? You can sometimes reasonably determine this by using legal tools to search for assets. In a pending litigation, these tools might include: depositions; subpoenas; interrogatories; production requests; etc.
Below is part of a production request in the hypothetical case of “JOHN DOE.” The production request seeks access to JOHN DOE’s passport; credit cards; phone records; etc. By analyzing this kind of material one might possibly detect secret offshore bank accounts or other hidden assets.
1. JOHN DOE’s original passport of which FRED L. ABRAMS, ESQ. (or his representative), may possess for a period of not more than 45 minutes to photocopy and return to JOHN DOE.
2. All paid and unpaid invoices from creditors arising from obligations incurred by JOHN DOE for the period January 1, 2011 to present.
3. All of JOHN DOE’s telephone records, (including cell phone records), for the period of January 1, 2011 to date.
4. Receipts and copies of airplane tickets for all air flights JOHN DOE traveled, during January 1, 2011 up to the present date.
5. All frequent flyer miles statements relating to any air flights JOHN DOE traveled, during January 1, 2011 up to the present date.
6. Receipts or documents relating to all hotel accommodations JOHN DOE paid for or hotels JOHN DOE stayed at anytime during the period of January 1, 2011 to the present.
7. All records and documents relating to any transaction entered into on or after January 1, 2011 in which JOHN DOE presently has or will have a financial interest or from which JOHN DOE has received or will receive compensation of any nature.
8. All documents related to any transaction since January 1, 2011, entered into by another person or entity for the benefit in whole or in part, of JOHN DOE.
9. All documents showing the amount, purpose or source of all payments over $5,000.00 made since January 1, 2011, to, by or for the benefit of JOHN DOE.
10. Copies of all of JOHN DOE’s current and previous wills and other estate planning documents.…
High net worth divorcing spouses, kleptocrats, bankruptcy debtors, judgment debtors, etc., can easily conceal their beneficially owned assets by utilizing Nominee Incorporation Services (“NIS”). Pages 63-64 of “The 2007 National Money Laundering Strategy” essentially explained that individuals may use NIS in schemes to hide assets through money laundering. Individuals sometimes hire …
DETERMINE BENEFICIAL OWNERSHIP—Has your adversary hidden assets by transferring them to nominees, (i.e. intermediaries), or by using nominees to make purchases? If your adversary does this, the success of your asset recovery may depend on showing that your adversary …