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Private investigators are often called upon by attorneys to conduct asset searches for a variety of reasons. For instance, some attorneys conduct asset searches prior to divorce proceedings, or as part of due diligence for a potential business deal, or, in cases of embezzlement, to satisfy judgments.
Assets can be identified by some relatively evident methods including real property transactions, intellectual property ownership, and litigation filings. Civil litigation, bankruptcy filings, and divorce filings are also all excellent sources in finding assets.
However, the not so obvious, more cunning techniques to hiding assets often include corporate filings. These hidden techniques create obstacles to not only identify but satisfy a judgment the client has in their favor. The clever debtor transfers ownership to shell companies not only to hide the asset but also to place it out of reach once found. Others strategically create offshore companies located in countries with strict privacy laws that make it virtually impossible for an outsider to obtain information (locations such as Hong Kong, British Virgin Islands, Grand Cayman Islands, or Panama).
Today, private investigators and attorneys can join forces to help their clients satisfy judgments. With this common interest in mind, the two make an ideal team. How? There are a couple of best practices that the investigator/attorney team can employ to satisfy a judgment for a client.
An experienced investigator, who specializes in asset searches, can identify offshore corporate affiliations wherein the debtor owns majority shares. Attorneys for the creditor can then seek to set up provisional liquidators to take control over the offshore entity. This method works well for both for-profit and non-profit affiliations.
Offshore companies don’t seem nearly so far away or out of reach as before.
When a debtor keeps their assets onshore, but still utilizes shell companies to distance themselves from their assets, attorneys and investigators can work towards obtaining receiverships. These function largely in the same way as provisional liquidators, but uniquely for onshore companies. Investigators work to identify corporate affiliations that own assets domestically whilst attorneys will establish a receivership to obtain access to these assets.
Today the shield between the debtor and the asset can be more easily penetrated. All one needs is a sharp investigator/attorney team to uncover assets and satisfy the judgment.
Asset searches and judgment satisfactions are not by any stretch of the imagination a quick process. But, with time, diligent investigators and skillful attorneys, can identify assets and satisfy judgments.