The Key Challenges of Asset Tracing
David Jones is the Managing Director of Reveal PI - a private investigation agency located in Birmingham, UK. He has approximately 10 years of investigation experience providing a range of intelligence gathering services to private clients, legal firms, local authorities and businesses. His company has provided asset tracing and intelligence reports that have been used to reform the supported housing sector and have saved clients millions in litigation costs.
What is Asset Tracing?
Asset tracing is the process of identifying an individual’s or business’ assets, these may include properties, businesses, vehicles and more. Understanding somebody’s financial position can help identify whether they have any adverse credit, hidden assets, or if they own businesses that may lead to a conflict of interest.
How do you go about asset tracing?
As well as utilising the right technological tools and online data sources, we explore both open-source intelligence and human source intelligence. Open-source intelligence is collected from domains within the public domain. This information is carefully analysed and cross-referenced to ensure it is current and valid. The term “open” refers to available sources compared to restricted resources which may include government intelligence. Open-source intelligence is less costly than human source intelligence and it is also easier to access however it will still require a significant level of analysis.
Human intelligence relies on the collection of information directly from people. While it is commonly used by government intelligence agencies, it can also be a key element of asset tracing.
Various resources can be accessed when exploring open-source intelligence including:
We will also be able to explore key information relating to:
We can even complete an open-source search on a global level to identify any stray references that could be relevant.
What are the complexities of asset tracing?
Many people try to conceal their assets, some in order to avoid paying tax, others to conceal them from spouses. The most common reason people hide assets is to avoid debtors who may try to have them ceased or subject to legal proceedings such as freezing orders. When a business is liquidated it may take a forensic accountant to distinguish between assets the directors have purchased for legitimate use and personal use but establishing how cash has been spent can be near impossible without an experienced asset tracer.
How do you resolve them?
Our initial enquiries will provide us with an overview of the subject’s finances, assets and business associates. We then interrogate this data and cross-reference this against the profile that has been provided to us by our client. We find that in the vast majority of cases the subjects use friends, family and business associates as mules to avoid using their own name on ownership documents and registrations. By identifying the subject’s immediate network of friends, family and business associated we are able to draw a more accurate picture of their asset portfolio. Identifying historic ownership documents then allows us to trace when ownership was transferred and access to credit data allows us to identify how much equity or liquidity is available from that asset.