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If your adversary is using a business entity to conceal assets from you, one thing to look for is trade-based money laundering. A June 2006 report by the Financial Action Task Force explains that trade-based laundering schemes can include: the over or under-invoicing of goods or services; the over or under-shipping of goods; falsely describing

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

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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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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

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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

Schemes to hide assets can involve bulk-cash smuggling combined with other methods.
A scheme to hide assets from you may be carried out by combining bulk-cash smuggling with other concealment methods.

A divorcing spouse; judgment debtor; tax cheat; etc. may use several methods to conceal assets. “Red Flags For An Asset Search” listed 18 of these methods.  The methods

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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

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

Talking Points Photo

The following is a list of Asset Search Blog posts which discuss data brokers; private investigators; bankers; suspected tax fraudsters; etc.  As these posts show, asset searches & asset recoveries sometimes raise privacy &/or criminal law issues.

A)  Data Brokers, Data Mining & Your Privacy

  1. Data Brokers Searching For Your Assets, Bank Accounts & Other

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If you are a divorcing spouse, judgment creditor or anyone else who believes they may need to do a bank search to locate hidden assets parked offshore, read this post to see how individuals sometimes hide their assets.  It covers the legal remedies that may be available to you in your asset search for offshore bank accounts.  This post was first published in 2013 and was called “Hidden Assets Offshore & A Bank Search To Find Them.”

Beneficial owners around the world are able to secretly transfer assets across international borders into offshore bank accounts.  The beneficial owners sometimes do this by money laundering through multiple jurisdictions; bulk-cash smuggling; back-to-back loans; shell companies; nominee incorporation services & gatekeepers like lawyers.  Legal remedies are however, usually available for finding hidden assets transferred offshore.  These remedies may even include seeking a court order directing a Swiss or other offshore bank to perform a bank search and disclose bank customer information.

MONEY LAUNDERING

The link chart below describes how one divorcing husband concealed both undeclared revenue and marital assets via multiple jurisdictions.¹  The husband laundered millions from the U.S., through a Swiss bank and a German one.  Prior to the equitable distribution hearing in his divorce, 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.  As this link chart reveals, the supposed arm’s length loan was back-to-back , (i.e. a fully collateralized loan in which the borrower and the lender are one and the same):

(Click On The Link Chart To Enlarge)


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