The letters ASSET with stacks of coins on gold background

The recovery of assets can be a tiresome, protracted and sometimes fruitless experience. But not all hope is lost. The asset tracing specialists at Blackhawk Intelligence can help you get back what is rightfully yours.

Across the globe, it is thought that there are millions upon millions of dollars worth of assets that have gone missing as a result of fraud, being stolen, misappropriated or hidden with a purpose of deceit. Examples of assets that are stolen or gone missing include real estate, valuables, stocks and shares, money, debts and intellectual property rights.

In some cases, finding these assets is vital to the survival of a company, particularly if the company has lost a significant sum of money due to fraud or lost valuable data due to theft. Company directors and the legal teams involved in such cases know that it can be frustrating to try and work out how to track the perpetrators down and freeze the assets. With this in mind, we aim to share the process of asset tracing, how it can help companies and individuals in different situations and the challenges of asset tracing in this article.

What is asset tracing?

When assets go missing – usually as a result of being stolen through theft or fraud – there are major physical and legal barriers that prevent the assets from being found and/or from being frozen. Asset tracing (or asset tracking) is a legal procedure undertaken by specialists who will attempt to locate assets of value for an individual or company so that they can be recovered.

Intelligence gathering is a key part to asset tracing, and it is this intelligence that can help the party involved to decide what to do next, including whether or not the extensive legal and litigation costs are worth the recovery.

In other words, asset tracing is the process of identifying lost assets for a party who are interested in recovering these valuables and/or properties through negotiated settlement with another party or through the court. For more information, follow the link to the “What is asset tracing” page to learn more.

Who can benefit from asset tracing?

There are several scenarios where asset tracing can be incredibly valuable to parties who are looking to recover their cash, possessions or properties. Examples of such situations include:

Fraud

When an individual or company falls victim to fraud, it can be financially and emotionally painful. During such a vulnerable time, it is even more critical to protect your business interests, reputation and, of course, your investments.

Once you realise that you or your company have been victims of fraud, get in touch with an asset tracing specialist immediately. Time is of the essence because fraudsters often spend a lot of time planning their attack, including how to cover their tracks. Additionally, they are likely to have plans in place to break down or offload your assets, making it even more difficult to recoup your investments. As such, it is essential for an asset tracing specialist to gather and preserve as much information as possible while, metaphorically speaking, the footprints are still in the snow.

It must be made clear that the information gathered during an investigation by our asset tracing team can be used in your litigation efforts, and our forensic accountants are qualified to give expert testimony on this information in a court of law. Follow the link if you want more information on how asset tracing can help fraud victims.

Debt

Corporate debt is a two-edged sword. Healthy debt can spring growth but bad debt can threaten the survival of a company. In many countries, small-scale debt recovery is relatively easy and can be aided by debt collection agencies, but recovering larger debts can be messy. For example, there may be a dispute surrounding the interpretation of a contract. Other complications surrounding debt recovery are the possibility of companies becoming insolvent, or one of the parties being in a different jurisdiction.

An asset tracing specialist can gather information and investigate the situation. This process can help establish if the debtor has assets that would be able to cover the debt. As assets can be hidden anywhere – in the UK or globally – an asset tracing team with international experience and connections can help uproot these valuables and properties to allow a party to decide if an expensive court case to seize these assets would be worthwhile.

At Blackhawk Intelligence, we have trusted human resources located all around the world – from Western and Eastern Europe to the Middle and Far East – ensuring that if a debtor has hidden their assets, we will find them.

Divorce

The asset tracing service is engaged in many high-profile divorce cases.

It occurs because one person in a marriage has hidden assets away from their spouse or civil partner – not just during their relationship but, crucially, during divorce proceedings. If an asset is not included as part of a divorce settlement, it cannot be split between the interested parties. With nearly half of all marriages now ending in divorce, the trend of hiding assets away from a spouse or civil partner (and not disclosing them in a settlement) has become a common occurrence. One survey found that about approximately 25% of respondents admitted to trying to hide possessions away from their spouses or partners.

Parties involving in high-profile divorces often have assets hidden in overseas jurisdictions, which can make it difficult for the other party to know the full picture. While the power of the court in establishing such matters has increased in recent years, there are still many avenues through which one partner can hide assets from another partner.

Forensic accounting, intimately linked to asset tracing, is often required in divorce cases to look for any financial discrepancies and establish whether or not a partner is hiding assets from a divorce settlement. The process may even involve ordering the disclosure of documentation from third parties, requesting information from another jurisdiction, or joining third parties to the proceedings. If you are going through divorce proceedings and suspect your other half of concealing assets from you and in the divorce settlement, it is time to contact one of our forensic accountants.

The challenges of asset tracing recovery

Asset tracing is a complicated process fraught with many challenges. While it is, of course, possible for an individual to attempt to pursue their own investigation, their solo efforts are more likely to fail because the procedure requires a vast amount of time, resources and knowledge. This is why asset tracing specialists, such as our team at Blackhawk Intelligence, are brought in to help.

However, even for asset tracing experts with countless years of experience and international resources, asset tracing can pose a number of challenges. Some of these challenges can include:

Taking possession of and returning of assets

As the process can often see specialists having to scout the globe to find assets, there are many barriers to taking possession of and returning assets. This is especially true of international assets. Understanding of local legal conditions, circumstances and procedures is crucial in determining whether or not an asset can be seized and returned with relative ease or not.

Budgetary challenges

A key reason why it is important to employ the services of an asset tracing specialist is that they will be able to determine whether or not your assets are worth recovering. The costs associated with recovery may outweigh the value of the assets. Additionally, the time it can take (sometimes years) to recover the assets can also be a barrier. A good asset tracing investigation will be able to provide all of the information to allow company directors and their legal teams to make an informed decision regarding whether or not it is in their interests to attempt to seize and recover the assets. After all, there may be no point in continuing if the process will see you throw good money after bad.

Other legal and factual issues

While there have been efforts from international and cross-border agencies to tackle asset theft and fraud, there are still some jurisdictions that are exempt from the relevant legislation. For example, despite the EU’s efforts to legally assist the tracing and recovery of assets, the Channel Islands are exempt from this legislation. Certain jurisdictions may also offer legal complications and factual truths that serve as barriers – such as the average length of proceedings, delays and even national interest issues.

Skillset and resources of investigators

A huge barrier for many asset tracing specialists is having access to human resources and databases, as well as possessing local knowledge to assist in recovering assets located in overseas jurisdictions. Additionally, such efforts require an incredible amount of dedication, time, energy, knowledge and experience on the part of the asset tracing investigators to find, identify, freeze, take and return assets.

A decade ago, the UN assessed that approximately $2.1 trillion had been criminally misallocated – with just 1% of these funds being recovered. Today, the situation has not improved, which is why you need the best asset tracing experts on your case.

Contact the asset tracing specialists at Blackhawk Intelligence

Over the years, Blackhawk Intelligence has built a vast intelligence network that supports our teams in their international investigations, particularly when it comes to asset tracing. Our network includes lawyers – both domestic and international – who support us in our efforts to secure bank disclosure and injunctions in order to freeze assets and obtain search orders.

We are also supported by a team of trusted international investigators. As such, we have performed investigations in more than two dozen countries across every continent. While we are based in the UK, we work with clients across the world to help them in their efforts to secure missing, hidden or stolen assets.

We are able to assist in the following areas related to asset tracing:

  • UK property and assets
  • Offshore property and assets
  • Corporate assets and connections
  • Directorships
  • Assets hidden by ownership and related party transactions by connected individuals, companies or corporate entities

Blackhawk’s focus is on promptly providing our clients with the accurate, detailed information that they need to make informed business decisions that could help return lost assets, safeguard current business interests and repair reputational damage.

Our approach to asset tracing is a commercial, cost-benefit approach. Our asset tracing team will tirelessly work for you to identify, secure and realise your assets – no matter if they are in the UK, the Middle East or even in a tax haven. Our detailed, forensic reports are used by many clients in pre-litigation.

If you want to get back assets that are rightfully yours, simply contact Blackhawk Intelligence’s London office on +44 (0)20 8108 9317, email enquiries@blackhawkintelligence.com or fill out our online form as soon as possible.

This article was first published in 2018 and has been updated on 07/08/19.

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This post is intended to provide information of general interest about current business issues. It should not replace professional advice tailored to your specific circumstances.