High value off-shore asset ownership dispute
This case is one of several cases that CCC has been involved, which have certain similarities. Due to the nature of this case, it had been running for several years before CCC became involved and relates to identifying the ultimate beneficial owner of shares in an off-shore company, which controlled significant assets. The true identity of the owner having been shrouded in secrecy, with public records recording nominees companies or directors as having control. Utilising several off-shore nominee companies and trusts, located various well know tax havens around the World.
As with the other cases, this came about with the death of an individual and subsequent disclosure of their will. In which it was claimed that he was the ultimate beneficiary of the assets held by these companies and that were to be distributed to his heirs in accordance with his wishes. This led to a number of legal challenges being made by various individuals, with proceedings taking place in two jurisdictions.
The concealment of the ultimate beneficial owner had provided opportunities for others to make claims that, if successful, would have resulted in the rightful beneficiary losing out.
The estimated value of assets being in the region of $45,000,000 USD.
The dispute had been running for some years with several other unsuccessful investigations having taken place, with disputes and claims continuing, which although it might sound odd, was causing the rightful heirs significant hardship with their own assets being frozen, they were close to destitution.
Having received instructions through the years of legal representatives, we were given access to the data held on two ancient, non-working computers and an old mobile phone. We were also given access to some 45,000 pages of hard copy documentation, comprising large quantities of copied bundles of the same documentation together with a relatively small number of faded facsimiles, telex messages and handwritten notes. All of which related to the deceased with some documentation dating back to 1970.
Using a combination of computer forensics, eDiscovery processes, combined with traditional investigation techniques. We were able to trace the history of the assets, together with documents confirming their purchase by the deceased utilising another nominee company that had been formed prior to the existence of the companies that until now had been at the centre of this investigation.
From this point we were able to track correspondence between various parties in the USA and France who had been corresponding with the deceased through an accommodation address during the 1980s. Enquiries at the accommodation address revealed that the correspondence was forwarded to yet another solicitor based in Paris.
Searches of the data recovered from the computer identified two more firms of solicitors who coincidentally resided at the same address. One had occasionally been used for business activities known to be associated with the deceased. Whilst the other had been used by the deceased as a document store. Two of which were relevant to the investigation:
- One document being a ‘letter of wishes’ related to a discretionary trust. The assets of which were the shares of the company owning the assets now valued at $45,000,000 USD.
- The other, a letter relating to the original purchase of those assets for just over $150,000 USD.
Through further investigation, we could also show that those challenging the will had also committed several criminal offences, which if successfully proceeded with would not only invalidate their claim but also potentially bar them from continuing in practice within their current roles.
Say no more, job done!
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