Divorce & Hidden Money

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.
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This 28th post in the “Divorce & Hidden Money” series mentions the petition Helga Glock filed in the U.S. to collect financial records for her Austrian alimony & asset distribution case against gun mogul Gaston Glock.

Part 1 of the instant post notes that if your divorce is

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This 27th post in the “Divorce & Hidden Money” series looks at a way to search for assets in the U.S. when your underlying divorce case is brought outside of the U.S.

If your underlying divorce case is commenced in a foreign country, how do you search for secret bank accounts or other

Real Estate Leskovskiy
A divorcing spouse can hide marital assets by laundering them in a scheme to purchase real estate.

This 26th post in the “Divorce & Hidden Money” series describes one way assets may be laundered through the purchase of real estate.  It supplies the hypothetical situation of “Mark,” a high

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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.
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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

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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

Photo Insider

This is my 21st post in the Divorce & Hidden Money series.  It is also the 8th post in my series describing what private investigators can and cannot do legally when searching for hidden assets.  My July 13th post mentioned private investigators & their clients using law enforcement databases and illegal pretext calls to

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The instant post analyzes 2 mistakes I occasionally see divorcing spouses make when they consider whether to search for marital assets hidden from them.  It is the 20th post in the “Divorce & Hidden Money” series:

  • A One-Size-Fits-All Strategy—Spouses in high net worth divorces may rely on a one-size-fits-all strategy to detect