Divorce & Child Support

Your Search For Assets Hidden Offshore

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 judges in Italy.  According to prosecutors, illicit proceeds from this offshore scheme were hidden in bank accounts located in the U.S. & elsewhere. “Money Laundering, Marital Assets & Divorce” outlines another scheme which relied on cross-border elements to conceal assets. The scheme involved a divorcing spouse in the U.S. who hid undeclared revenue in a Swiss bank & then “washed” it through a bank in Germany.¹

As the above essentially suggests, tracking assets offshore can become a critically important part of your asset search. How do you search for assets hidden offshore? One way is by employing legal tools. The following article discusses the tools federal prosecutors may use to collect evidence from witnesses residing offshore.² Two of the tools the article mentions are compelled consent forms & letters rogatory.  These two tools are not just for use by prosecutors. They are sometimes used by divorcing spouses, judgment creditors & others searching for offshore bank accounts/assets hidden offshore:

Click On The Image To Read The Entire Article

¹The fact pattern supplied at “Money Laundering, Marital Assets & Divorce,” has been changed & sanitized for privacy reasons.

²“Obtaining Foreign Evidence Outside of The Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty Process,” U.S. Attorneys’ Bulletin March 2007, is supplied courtesy of the Executive Office for United States Attorneys.

Image of offshore banking & tax haven concept: ChameleonsEye/Shutterstock.com

Copyright 2016 Fred L. Abrams

Offshore Image 5:30:16
As this 31st post in the “Divorce & Hidden Money” series reveals, you may be able to employ letters rogatory to detect assets hidden offshore.

A letter rogatory is an application to a foreign tribunal. It seeks permission to serve process on or gather evidence from a foreign witness. If you are in a divorce in the United States, letters rogatory can usually help you collect evidence of offshore assets your spouse hid from you. You might use letters rogatory to search for assets which can include: bank accounts; real estate; valuable art; business entities; etc. My February 25, 2015 post mentioned the use of letters rogatory in relation to divorce/child support cases in New York.

The February 25, 2015 post discussed one ex-husband who for 30 years failed to pay spousal maintenance &/or child support to his ex-wife in New York. Since the ex-husband lived in places like Mexico, the Dominican Republic & Barbados, legal proceedings in New York did not get the ex-husband to pay his ex-wife. Had the ex-wife been able to afford it, she might have hired lawyers to seek the issuance of letters rogatory to search for the ex-husband’s offshore assets. You may similarly employ letters rogatory if you are in a divorce outside of the United States & your divorcing spouse hid assets from you in the United States.

These kinds of cases are highlighted at Part 1 & Part 2 of “Asset Searches In The U.S. For Divorces Brought Outside The U.S.”  Below is a translated copy of a letter rogatory arising out of a divorce in the Republic of Colombia at The 8th Family Court, in Barranquilla.¹ In connection with The Family Court’s distribution of community property from a marriage, the letter rogatory requests bank account/bank customer information at Bank of America in the United States.

Letter Rogatory Colomibia

¹The letter rogatory has been partly sanitized for privacy reasons.

Offshore Image With Cash: esfera/Shutterstock.com

Copyright 2016 Fred L. Abrams

This 30th post in the “Divorce & Hidden Money” series highlights a RICO lawsuit Helga Glock commenced in 2014. The lawsuit alleges Glock pistol inventor Gaston Glock initially hid assets via shell companies supplied by Charles Ewert—a resident of Luxembourg known as Panama Charly.

Moneylaundering.com’s Editor-in-Chief Kieran Beer says at his April 11th article, that the Panama Papers represent “an unparalleled look at the…abuse of shell companies, in this case those created by Panama-based law firm Mossack Fonseca.” ¹ Like Mossack Fonseca, Charles Ewert was in the business of forming shell companies. Although based in Luxembourg, Charles Ewert was reportedly called Panama Charly because of the large number of shell companies he had formed in Panama. Charles Ewert is also one of the defendants at Helga Glock’s RICO lawsuit against her ex-husband gunmaker Gaston Glock.

The Court’s docket report shows that last month Helga Glock filed her proposed Second Amended Complaint, (“the Proposed Complaint”), in the RICO lawsuit. The Proposed Complaint asserts that Charles Ewert had supplied Gaston Glock with Panamanian shell company Reofin International S.A. The Proposed Complaint seems to basically allege that Reofin & other shell companies were used as laundering links to conceal assets in a money laundering circuit. It also seems to basically claim that assets belonging to Helga Glock were supposedly hidden from her through: lawyers; sham loans; trade-based money laundering via false invoices &/or leases.

According to allegations at the Proposed Complaint, Charles Ewert, Glock, Inc. & others were members of an alleged RICO enterprise led by Gaston Glock. The Proposed Complaint says that one goal of the alleged RICO enterprise was to deprive Helga Glock of her assets. It claims that Helga Glock detected this alleged scheme in 2011, because of her divorce from Gaston Glock & her ouster from one of Gaston Glock’s companies. Helga Glock apparently filed the Proposed Complaint to search for & recover assets Gaston Glock supposedly hid during the couple’s marriage. Earlier Asset Search Blog posts discussing Helga & Gaston Glock are “Helga Glock’s Search For Gaston Glock’s Assets” & “Helga Glock Claims Gaston Glock Started Concealing His Assets.”

¹Moneylaundring.com’s Webpage, “From The Editor: Will Panama Papers Give Governments New Backbone for Transparency?” Web. Last Viewed May 4, 2016.

Photo: NSC Photography/Shutterstock.com

Copyright 2016 Fred L. Abrams

4 28 16 Post

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.[1]

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. Continue Reading Hiding Art Assets, Anonymity & The Panama Papers

Image For Article About Panama Papers

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 wife & the I.R.S. through: a Panamanian lawyer, bearer shares, a shell company & other offshore elements.

Meanwhile, there have been many articles this week discussing the Mossack Fonseca Law Firm headquartered in Panama City, Panama. These articles arise out of the investigation of Mossack Fonseca which is detailed at the “Panama Papers” website published by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists. Among other things, the website has a page of graphs, with one graph called “The hunt for bearer shares.” This particular graph seems to suggest that Mossack Fonseca employed bearer shares to help clients hide assets offshore.

At its own website, Mossack Fonseca says they are “Offshore Specialists since 1977.”  In this role, Mossack Fonseca is thought to have helped a large number of law-abiding clients transfer assets offshore for legitimate purposes. Mossack Fonseca could however, have also helped a large number of criminals seeking to conceal illicit assets. These criminals might have been tax cheats hiding undeclared revenue; corrupt government officials; & others seeking to conceal money by laundering it offshore.

Any criminals hiding assets through Mossack Fonseca will soon become known, since over 11 million documents at Mossack Fonseca were apparently hacked & leaked to the press. I suspect the hacked documents will show that assets were hidden offshore through elements commonly used to wash vast sums of money. Some of these elements are listed below & they should always be considered by anyone searching for valuable assets hidden from them.

Panama Papers Image: catwalker/Shutterstock.com

Copyright 2016 Fred L. Abrams

Compartments 1

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 discussed by former FBI Special Agent Steve Cocco, at “Paris Attackers Displayed Strict OpSec, Planning and Compartmentalization.”

Ponzi schemers; high net worth divorcing spouses; money launderers; tax fraudsters & others can similarly compartmentalize their actions in schemes for hiding assets. The schemes can be as basic as parking money in a secret offshore bank account & directing the offshore bank to mail monthly bank account statements to an offshore post office box. By keeping the money & its monthly bank account statements offshore, they are compartmentalized & out of the spotlight. This makes it harder for domestic tax authorities; a divorcing spouse; a judgment creditor; & anyone else to detect the hidden money.

At earlier Asset Search Blog posts I wrote about the sham loan depicted by the link chart featured below.¹ I mention the loan again because it shows how strict compartmentalization can be employed to hide assets. As set forth at Money Laundering, Marital Assets & Divorce, the loan was used by a divorcing husband to launder both marital assets and undeclared revenue. Prior to the equitable distribution hearing in his divorce proceeding, 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.

According to the husband, he was indebted to the German bank & had defaulted/failed to repay the loan. The supposed arm’s length loan was however, back-to-back , (i.e. a fully collateralized loan in which the borrower and the lender are one and the same). As a consequence of strict compartmentalization, the divorcing wife would not ordinarily be able to recognize that the divorcing husband was both the borrower and lender of the loan:

(Click On The Link Chart To Enlarge)

 

¹For privacy reasons, some of the facts at the link chart have been changed from the original legal matter.

Copyright 2007-2016 Fred L. Abrams

 

Production Request
You might be able to access your adversary’s passport; credit card statements & phone records via a production request.

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.

PRODUCTION REQUEST

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. Continue Reading Using A Production Request In Your Asset Search

Following A Money Trail

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 a NIS to open secret bank accounts & form non-transparent shell companies. Page 64 of The 2007 National Money Laundering Strategy said “[t]he FBI believes that U.S. shell companies and bank accounts arranged by certain NIS firms are being used to launder as much as $36 billion a year from the former Soviet Union. It is not clear whether these NIS firms are complicit in the money laundering abuse.

An apparent NIS is Capital Asset, Inc. One of its webpages recommends forming companies in Nevada, Wyoming or Delaware. It presumably makes this recommendation because Nevada, Wyoming & Delaware have little or no reporting requirements concerning a company’s shareholders, managers, etc. Someone who wants to hide assets can form a non-transparent shell company in these states & use the shell company to open a bank account at a financial institution in an offshore tax haven. During a bank or asset search, this bank account may be especially difficult to detect because it is titled in the name of the non-transparent shell company.

Another Capital Asset, Inc. wepage asserts:

We use encrypted software, mobile memory sticks, and we back up any information in countries outside the U.S.  There are no paper statements, no debit cards, and all of the accounts are in the names of an IBC [International Business Corporation], just exactly the way Microsoft does it. We imitate in every detail what multinational companies do when they open an offshore account.  Most of our clients use a nominee- they are not officers, directors, or shareholders of the IBC. However, as signatory or beneficial owner of an offshore account, you need to understand there are heavy tax reporting requirements.

Image: jesadaphorn/Shutterstock.com

Copyright 2012-2016 Fred L. Abrams

shutterstock_201148613 (1)TIPS FROM EARLIER ASSET SEARCH BLOG ARTICLES THAT MAY HELP YOU RECOVER HIDDEN ASSETS:

Photo Of Light BulbDETERMINE 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 is the true beneficial owner of the hidden assets.  Agencies including U.S. Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network discuss beneficial ownership at their March 5, 2010 Guidance on Obtaining and Retaining Beneficial Ownership Information, No. Fin-2010-G001, at fn.2.  The Wolfsberg Group of banks’ FAQs On Beneficial Ownership, supplies its own definition of beneficial ownership.

Photo Of Light BulbFIND LAUNDERED ASSETS—Launderers hide assets by washing them through a money laundering circuit with laundering links.  Laundering links can be shell companies; gatekeepers like lawyers & accountants; etc.  Through money laundering, your adversary may hide marital assets; bankruptcy estate assets; trust assets; assets belonging to a decedent’s estate and virtually anything else.  Even an act as ordinary as buying real estate can be an opportunity to hide & launder assets, as set forth by the Egmont Group case study available here

Photo Of Light BulbUSE LEGAL TOOLS—Tools which may help detect your adversary’s money trail are available in legal proceedings ranging from divorces to bankruptcies.  My May 18, 2015 article discusses one of these tools, 11 production requests geared toward detecting assets hidden offshore.  Depositions are another legal tool for gathering evidence about your adversary’s assets.  At a deposition, your lawyer should ask your adversary about any bank accounts; credit cards; real estate; etc.  The IRS asks these questions at its Information Collection Statement, Form 433-A.  The questions/material at the Form 433-A can be modified and used to depose your adversary about assets.

Photo Of Light BulbLETTERS ROGATORYRequests for letters rogatory (a.k.a requests for judicial assistance)—are used to gather evidence from witnesses residing offshore.  This means that a divorcing spouse; judgment creditor; etc. may utilize these requests to collect evidence about offshore bank accounts from foreign bank witnesses.  Billionaire gunmaker Gaston Glock’s former wife Helga filed a request for judicial assistance in federal court in Atlanta, Georgia.  It claimed that because of the couple’s divorce in Austria, Helga Glock needed to collect evidence about Gaston Glock’s assets from businesses in Georgia including Glock, Inc.

Photo Of Light BulbCOMPELLED CONSENT/AUTHORIZATION FORMS—can be utilized to perform a bank account search if you already know: where your adversary’s bank is located; the bank account number; and the identity of the bank signatory.  You would apply to the Court for an order, (i.e. a judicial direction), compelling the bank signatory to execute a consent/authorization form for the release of bank account information.  You then send this executed form to your adversary’s bank which permits the bank to release your adversary’s bank account information to you.

Photo Of Light BulbINFORMANT’S TIPS—are one of the best ways to detect complex asset concealment schemes.  This is why the Securities Exchange Commission & the Internal Revenue Service offer tipsters rewards through whistleblower programs.  A business partner; paramour; family member; or others associated with your adversary may have direct knowledge of your adversary’s assets.  If any of them fall out of favor with your adversary they may be willing to tip you about your adversary’s hidden assets.  An attempt to elicit a tip from an informant is covered by the article “An Asset Search, Tax Fraud & Divorce.”

Photo Of Light BulbCOMPUTER-BASED RESEARCH—sometimes reveals assets hidden by an individual or corporation.  This research is discussed at “A Low-Cost Asset Search.”  It can include searches for physical business assets; IP licenses like patents & copyrights; & searches for additional things.

 

¹Money laundering case study/excerpt courtesy of the Egmont Group, “100 Cases From The Egmont Group” at pp. 17-18.

First Image: Texelart/Shutterstock.com

Photo of Lightbulb courtesy of Flickr (Licensed) by One Way Stock

Copyright 2015-18 Fred L. Abrams

Image Offshore Assets

The following can help you detect money concealed in an offshore bank account:

I.  DETECT A MONEY TRAIL

When an adversary hides funds at an offshore bank there is always an electronic trace. The trace occurs because the bank stores electronic information comprised of: bank account opening documents; bank signature cards; monthly bank statements; etc.  In addition to an electronic trace, there are usually other signs of a money trail to spot.  As “Secreting Assets Without A Border Trace” reveals, you may be able to detect the money trail by “concentrat[ing] on foreign hotels, payment information, telephone records and on credit card expenses for details of physical movements and lifestyle.”

II.  DEPOSE YOUR ADVERSARY’S LAWYERS

A complex scheme to hide assets is sometimes facilitated by a lawyer, as described at “Striking Out During Your Asset Search? Don’t Forget To Look At The Lawyers” & “Hiding Assets Through Gatekeepers With Accounts Across The Globe.” A lawyer may have opened your adversary’s offshore bank account &/or withdrawn money from it. By bringing legal proceedings, you can sometimes depose this lawyer/serve the lawyer with discovery demands, as described at “A Debt Collection In New York.” “An Asset Search Of A Lawyer Employed To Conceal Cash” also shows how these discovery demands might lead you to a secret bank account.

III.  LOOK FOR THE THE BADGES OF FRAUD

Money Laundering, Marital Assets & Divorce” mentions a divorcing husband who transferred money, (i.e. black capital), originating in the U.S., into a secret Swiss bank account.  Through financial transactions including a back-to-back loan, the husband laundered the money he transferred offshore.  Individuals like the husband can secretly transfer money into an offshore bank account via bulk-cash smuggling; phony invoicing schemes; disguised wire transfers; & numerous other ways.  You might be able to detect this suspicious transfer of money by looking for badges of fraud. According to the Court in Salomon v. Kaiser (In re Kaiser), 722 F.2d 1574 (2d Cir. 1983), the badges of a fraudulent asset transfer are:

  1. the lack or inadequacy of consideration;
  2. family, friendship or close associate relationship between the parties;
  3. the retention of possession, benefit or use of the property in question;
  4. the financial condition of the party sought to be charged both before and after the transaction in question;
  5. the existence or cumulative effect of a pattern, or series of transactions, or course of conduct, after a debt, the onset of financial difficulties or pendency or threat of suits by creditors;
  6. & the general chronology of the events and transactions under inquiry. (Id.)

Image: Irina Mos/Shutterstock.com

Copyright 2016 Fred L. Abrams