Man Digging

Locating hidden assets can be especially difficult if underground banks/informal banking systems like hawala have been utilized. “The Hawala Alternative Remittance System and its Role in Money Laundering”¹ explains that hawaladars, (a.k.a hawala operators), secretly transfer funds to financial accounts maintained in Switzerland, Dubai, the United Kingdom &/or other international financial centers.  The 

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Favorite Asset Search Blog posts from 2015 include:

ERR Rembrandt111-SC-374664Recovering Art Assets & Cultural Heritage Propertycovers how divorcing spouses; terrorists & others may employ art to hide their assets.  This post was written by Leila A. Amineddoleh, Esq. who is an art and cultural heritage lawyer and an adjunct professor at Fordham

ISIS-inspired terrorists Syed Farook and Tashfeen Malik reportedly spent about $4,500 on pipe bombs; guns & additional items for their December 2nd terrorist attack in San Bernadino, California.

The December 2nd terrorist attack in San Bernadino, California was a relatively low-cost terrorist operation.  An NBC article reported that terrorists Syed Farook

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 

This video¹ discusses ways assets can be concealed via money laundering.  As the video observes, billions are thought to be laundered worldwide & “laundering takes place within our everyday world of routine business transactions.”

Looking for laundered assets can be critical to a successful asset search, my last post says

ERR Rembrandt111-SC-374664
The Rembrandt Shown Above Can Be Hidden Easily.  It Was Recovered By U.S. Troops During WWII in Munich, Germany.

Divorcing spouses, debtors, determined criminals or others may hide and secretly transfer art assets and cultural heritage property. The article below was written by Leila Amineddoleh of Amineddoleh & Associates LLC, where she specializes in art, cultural heritage, and intellectual property law. Ms. Amineddoleh teaches International Art & Cultural Heritage Law at Fordham University School of Law and St. John’s University School of Law. Her article explains that art and cultural heritage property can be used to conceal assets in a variety of ways.  The article covers these topics:

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

LEGAL CONSIDERATIONS FOR RECOVERING ART ASSETS & CULTURAL HERITAGE PROPERTY

By Leila Amineddoleh, Esq.

Not only are art and antiquities beautiful, fascinating, and rich in cultural significance, but they can be great investments. The growing interest in the art world has introduced a new wave of investment products; entire companies have developed in the field of art investment consultation, using art as an alternative investment type. Some economists even claim that art is more secure than stocks, citing the fact that art outperforms the stock market.[1] Since the Second World War, groups of wealthy investors purchased artwork during unstable economic periods. And as with other asset classes, art and antiquities can be used as vehicles for hiding assets.

I.  FORGERIES, ILLICIT IMPORTS & SMUGGLING

One of the most frustrating aspects of art and antiquities collecting relates to valuation. There is a vast disparity between values for authentic versus forged objects. For example, where a convincing copy of a Jackson Pollock may sell for a few thousand dollars, an authentic work by the Abstract expressionist painter may sell for up to $50 million. And as the past couple decades have demonstrated, it can be difficult to ascertain which works are by the hand of a purported artist versus a talented art forger. (This difficulty recently became headline news as art investors sued the well-known Knoedler Gallery for selling multi-million dollar forgeries.[2])

These same complications arise with antiquities. It is not only difficult to determine whether an artifact is authentic, but it can be challenging to determine its origin. Smugglers bring antiquities into the US, but lie about the origin of the objects. Illicit importing has been committed in ingenious ways: some smugglers will cover an authentic antiquity in a plastic coating to make the object appear to be a cheap tourist toy; once the object has passed through customs, the plastic coating is removed and the valuable cultural object is revealed.[3] Other smugglers don’t even disguise the works, they simply claim that ancient artifacts are modern-day trinkets bought while abroad. Another way that people misrepresent objects relates to the find spot (the location where an artifact was excavated). By lying about the object’s origin, smugglers conceal valuable information regarding the work’s creation, greatly affecting the value and legality of a work. (For example, objects from Syria have been recently scrutinized for fear that looted artifacts enter the US and fuel the market for illicit objects. So smugglers now claim that these looted works are from other areas of the Middle East, thereby avoiding detection by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.)
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