Please introduce us to asset tracing.
Asset tracing is the process of locating financial assets, property or valuables through formal investigations. Investigators undertake detailed research to determine a subject’s asset profile and whether that profile is sufficient to meet their outstanding debts or potential claims. Asset tracing can spearhead investigations in finding additional evidence such as unknown associates and lifestyles which can lead to a greater understanding of the target’s activities. Once the research has been conducted, the investigators then identify assets and can assist in asset recovery litigation and collections processes.
Whether you are acting in a personal capacity or on behalf of a business, you may require asset tracing services to help you recover unpaid debts or to help satisfy a judgement.
What are the best strategies that you rely on during the process?
As I was trained in specialist electronics my technical background has always meant I look for technical solutions to help resolve modern-day problems.
Successful asset trace investigations use a combination of technology, open- source intelligence (OSINT) and human intelligence (HUMINT) sources.
We have access to bespoke tech tools in addition to global databases and deep web tools, which we use to track/trace and build out the asset puzzles of the targets. We are constantly identifying the lifestyles and behaviours of the individuals we are investigating – whether it’s checking their global movements and identifying foreign property assets or moveable assets such as supercars or yachts.
We start with detailed background intelligence research through online data sources. We examine financial information and digital records, such as emails of the targets. By forensically analysing commercial databases, social media platforms and other sources, we obtain an intelligence map. We thereafter conduct covert field enquiries to help complete the profile.
In certain overseas jurisdictions, information is hard to identify, however, with the correct strategic legal approach and understanding of data protection laws, in many circumstances restricted data can be legally obtained.
Asset tracing can spearhead investigations in finding additional evidence such as unknown associates and lifestyles which can lead to a greater understanding of the target’s activities.
We can then turn intelligence gathered into meaningful information and obtain proof that traced assets are connected to the targets and are ultimately recoverable.
Sometimes, specialist knowledge is required, such as in the case of superyachts, where our industry expertise enables us to identify the location and ownership of such assets and provide recovery, valuation at the current market rate, and sale of such vessels.
What are your top asset tracing tips?
Look for specialist insolvency professionals, lawyers and investigators, who will be able to take you through the process and explain potential pitfalls and likely costs.
Do not use investigators that are happy to break the law to obtain information.
Before instructing your investigators, obtain as much information about the subject as you can – this will assist them when undertaking the asset profile.
Don’t spend a disproportionate amount of money trying to identify assets. You have to be pragmatic and try to take the emotion out of the situation.
Don’t throw good money after bad, if the assets are likely to be in difficult jurisdictions and irrecoverable. No one wants a pyrrhic victory.
Look for the low-hanging fruit, such as assets that are in friendly jurisdictions to the one where the claim or debt has arisen. This may provide litigation funders comfort to fund your case, which you will need if you do not have sufficient money to litigate, or if you would prefer to share the risk with others.
Try to negotiate using the low- hanging fruit identified at an early stage. Once the other side knows that you have knowledge of some of their assets, you should attempt to get them around the table. You may not need to know everything, as they won’t know all of what you know.
If you are not sure, pick up the phone and ask me, I am always happy to give free initial advice.
ABOUT MIKE WRIGHT
As a Consultant at ESA Risk, Mike Wright only does one of nine things for his clients – he specialises in the identification, protection and recovery of people, information and assets. In general terms, this is defined as corporate security, investigations & risk management.
He has over 30 years’ experience of advising clients in leading law firms, financial institutions, and companies on operational and strategic affairs spanning more than 25 countries.
He’s been a Partner in two of the largest independent international insolvency & restructuring companies which are headquartered in the UK.
Mike is a member of the World Association of Detectives, Association of British Investigators, Association of Certified Fraud Examiners, Fraud Advisory Panel, and the International Compliance Association.
He is currently a UK Ambassador for the World Association of Detectives and a past board member of the Association of British Investigators. He has presented at international events and seminars on corporate fraud investigations.
Mike was the youngest winner of the Association of British Investigators Zena Scott Archer –Investigator of the Year Award. In 2017, he was placed second on Refinitiv’s list of the UK’s top 30 influencers in risk, compliance and regtech and has been recognised by Reuters as one of the top 5 global influencers in Cyber Security.
Before moving into corporate investigations and risk management, Mike served with the British Army where he served in the Far East providing support for the governments in illegal immigration and internal security, and also served in Europe including the anti- terrorism specialist electronics including in the research and development unit.
ABOUT ESA RISK
ESA Risk is one of the fastest-growing and most dynamic risk management and business consulting practices in the UK.
Although the brand was born in 2020, its roots go back to the 1930s as an international corporate investigation business.
ESA Risk is a strong collective of expert consultants who specialise in managing business risks, protecting and enhancing clients’ profitability and providing solutions when organisations need specialist assistance.
The firm’s services are designed to help people and businesses manage risk, excel and grow. ESA Risk builds strategic partnerships and adds value to businesses worldwide. Its service offering includes corporate investigations, people and asset tracing, digital forensics, cyber security, enhanced due diligence and business consulting.