Case Study 1: The Cat Came Back
In a private matter which came about through a long running neighbour dispute, our client’s cat was stolen by their neighbours on the day they moved house. With no public footprints linking them to a new address (which was located over 50 miles away) and no forwarding address left with any other neighbours, this seemed like a lost cause. However, Facebook searches were carried out on the family which found that the teenage daughter posted the public message “our new home” with photos of their new house including one stock Estate Agent image of the property. Reverse Google Image searches found the agent’s listing of the property and we were able to identify their new address. The client was then able to seek further legal advice around the recovery of said cat.
Case Study 2: Home Tweet Home
By monitoring her highly active Twitter account, we were able to keep almost constant tabs on the location of a well-known “socialite”. Her jet set lifestyle was self-documented online as she travelled between her homes in Beverley Hills, Surrey and Ireland. Not only did this allow us to plan the service on several occasions of court documents, but also provided us with the jurisdictional knowledge in order to be able to focus our asset searches and provide our client with potential recovery options.
Case Study 3: Wish You Were Here?
A debtor claimed to have no money despite living in a £1m property in Cheshire. However, the Facebook and Twitter accounts of his teenage sons suggested otherwise, with photographs documenting numerous family holidays over the past 18 months; skiing in February, Caribbean sun in summer and several city breaks to boot being the general order of things.
Case Study 4: An Away Fixture
Our client was pursuing a former professional footballer for costs relating to a failed insurance claim for future lost income following injury. The subject could not be pinned down to any one UK address having moved several times in recent years due to having been transferred between clubs in the North East and following his injury, it was apparent from social media that he spent much of his time abroad. However, by monitoring Facebook, we were ready when he posted a photo of himself posing by his vehicle outside what appeared to be a UK residential address. By analysing clues in the photograph and cross referencing this image with Google Street View it was confirmed as being his parents’ residential address. Our local agent in the North East was despatched to serve documents on the subject that very day.
Case Study 5: Out of The Shadows
In this Letter of Credit fraud, our subject, a Director of a major garments wholesaler, was supposed to be dealing with their logistics provider at arm’s length. However, our desktop searches indicated that he was most likely a Shadow Director with an interest in the logistics firm. In order to attempt to hide his control, the sole Director was registered as his son-in-law.
It was clear from LinkedIn searches that the “Office Administrator” son-in-law who was employed by an E-commerce company probably lacked the experience required to be heading up a business providing logistics to a major wholesaler!
Case Study 6: The Football Chairman
A controversial figure and Chairman of a lower division Football League side was being pursued by our client for debts relating to a failed business with recovery sought through the strength of a personal guarantee.
Despite being a relatively high profile figure, he had recently moved out of his long-term residential address was proving difficult to locate. He also claimed to have no money and no assets.
Notwithstanding this “lack” of funds, his wife celebrated her recent birthday by showing off her new birthday present from her “hubby” to her Facebook followers; a white Mercedes convertible complete with personalised numberplate. HPI searches indicated that the £40k car was free from finance!
An instruction was received from our client at 9.30am on a Thursday morning who required immediate assistance with the issuing of an Application at the High Court, and subsequent service of the Application on two respondents in separate locations.
Given the urgency of the matter, and in order to expedite the process, we arranged to collect the documents directly from our client’s North London office, and leave straight to the High Court from there. Our agent arrived at their offices shortly after 10.30am where he checked through the relevant documentation with the client and, having confirmed that the Application was all in order, went directly to the High Court.
De Vere Intellica’s clients can rest assured that we always check through documents prior to issuing or service due to the fact that, on the extremely rare occasion that we identify an issue, it can save significant time and money to do so!
Our agent arrived at the High Court at 11.45am where the Applications were issued, stamped, and ready for service before lunchtime. Given our proximity to the Royal Courts of Justice, it was then not long before copies had been made for exhibits, and the two original Applications distributed to two Process Servers for simultaneous attempts of service; one at an address in Knebworth, Hertfordshire and the other in South London.
The respondents were served later that same day by our Process Servers who confirmed their identity from photographs provided by the client, as well as the verbal confirmation of identity from the respondents themselves.
Whilst the respondent in South London was served at 3pm, the respondent in Knebworth was not at home at that time, and was not served until he returned from work at 6.30pm. Affidavits of service were therefore written up that evening, sworn first thing on Friday morning, and personally delivered back to the instructing solicitor with the exhibits by 11am Friday morning.
Benefits of Using De Vere Intellica
A Law Firm required same day collection and serve: one set of documents as to be collected from their offices and a second set of documents collected from the High Courts of Justice. The two sets of documents then needed to be arranged into one bundle and copied so there were two identical bundles to serve. One bundle was to be served on business premises during working hours and the second bundle was to be served on a residence in East Anglia. The Law Firm emphasised that this was an urgent matter and that the documents needed to be served within 24 hours.
We were able to deploy resources accordingly despite it being 2pm in the afternoon when the instructions were received. The business address was successfully served as requested but unfortunately upon arrival at the East Anglia address we were told that the subject no longer resided there, indeed hadn’t been there for two years and had not left a forwarding address. Desktop research carried out by the team at De Vere Intellica the next morning indicated that the subject was now residing at an address 15 miles away.
As a result of this positive trace the required documents were served within the 24 hour timeframe. Affidavits of Service were produced and delivered to the Law Firm by the end of the working day.
De Vere Intellica was approached by a leading firm of International Lawyers on behalf of their client, a UK based Funder. The funder had had a relationship that had gone into Administration and they were faced with a significant shortfall on the collect out of the ledger.
Having been tasked with putting the pieces together and having received information from the Insolvency Practitioners, ledger collection team & Lawyers involved in the case we were able to quickly put together a narrative which indicated that prior to insolvency the company in question had been ‘taken over’ by two or possibly three known fraudsters. Each of the fraudsters having previously featured on UK national television, served time in jail and likely to be the subjects of ongoing Police investigations. With their involvement it was calculated that in excess of £500,000 of stock had been stolen and delivered to addresses connected to the fraudsters.
It appeared that the Directors had knowingly allowed the company to be taken over and as such were to be pursued by the Funder for the shortfall in collections from the sales ledger
A UK based Funder approached De Vere Intellica to provide Due Diligence reports on three prospective guarantee providers for a substantial new facility.
Within 48hours of receiving the instructions we were able to ascertain that two of the three individuals did not own the assets reflected in the statements of assets and liabilities provided to the Funder and that the third subject used 3 different variations of his name at Companies House to hide prior appointments, all with companies currently undergoing liquidation or administration. In addition there was clear links to other known companies where various Funders’ experiences were not positive.
Funder declined to provide a facility to the three individuals and potentially stopped a loss occurring at some point in the near future.
De Vere Intellica were approached by a commercial client and their legal advisers to diagrammatically detail a complex series of transactions and intercompany relationships. The i2 chart was required to help Counsel present the matter in Court and allowed for other stakeholders including the Insurance Company to fully appreciate the lengths the subjects went to in order to move and hide funds.
Work Undertaken/ The Chart
Please note that the names of the individuals and companies have been changed
Using the information already obtained by the client and their professional advisers De Vere Intellica was able to clearly map and outline various flows of monies between numerous bank accounts and businesses and ultimately its conversion into recoverable assets. Additional research had to be undertaken to ensure completeness and in this instance extra work was carried out in UK and overseas, (Southern Europe, Central America, the Caribbean and Middle East) to supplement the already held data.
A leading legal firm acting on behalf of an international finance provider requested urgent service of Freezing Orders on three Directors of a foreign national bank at three separate addresses, two in London and one in Manchester. The Orders were available for collection at 5.00pm and were required to be served prior to 8.30pm that same day. The client was able to provide photographs of each of the subjects to assist in identification.
The Freezing Orders were collected from the Central London office of our client at 5.00pm and two of our agents immediately set out to serve the documents: one agent to serve the two Directors at London addresses and the other agent travelled to Manchester to serve the third Director.
Of the two Directors with London addresses one was staying at a prestigious hotel and was served upon entering the lobby at 6.25pm. We had been informed by the client that the Director was staying at the hotel and our agent waited at the lobby until he recognized the subject from the photograph provided..
The second Director was served at a family home, a luxury flat in the West End of London at 7.30pm. Our agent knocked on the door of the property which was answered by a teenager and asked if the Director was available. The teenager could be heard asking the Director whether he was in and receiving the response “no” and our agent was able to see through the window of the property that the subject was in fact sitting in the living room. When the teenager returned to the door the Freezing Order was served. As the agent was walking away from the address the door was opened and the Director attempted, unsuccessfully, to return the documents to our agent.
The third Director was staying at a large detached property located in a gated community in an affluent area on the outskirts of Manchester. Our agent arrived at the property shortly prior to 8.00pm and following some initial difficulty was able to gain entry to the grounds of the large property by ringing the intercom and speaking to a female inside. The door to the property was opened by a female who then called the Director to the door; once our agent was able to confirm that the male was the subject the Order was served.
All three Orders were successfully served within the required timeframe and Affidavits of Service were provided to our client the next working day.
A large multinational Bank sought to trace and make a recovery against “Mr P”, a debtor suspected of siphoning off funds from his various companies (that the bank had funded) in order to purchase personal assets and fund his extravagant lifestyle.
The client was aware that Mr P was often out of the country and on business overseas. By the middle of 2012 he became entirely uncontactable. The Bank was aware of a portfolio of properties in County Down held in Mr P’s own name against which they had mortgage charges registered. De Vere was instructed to trace Mr P and confirm the scope of his asset portfolio.
Initially De Vere conducted jurisdiction wide property searches within the Republic of Ireland. It was apparent that the subject had a larger property portfolio than first suspected by the client with numerous ‘buy-to-let’ properties in counties spanning both The Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. Several of these properties were owned via property construction companies and investment vehicles for which Mr P and his wife were the beneficial owners. These properties were registered using multiple shell identities which utilised alternative dates of birth, name variations and complex address criteria. It also became clear that Mr P had already sold a substantial number of properties in the previous 2 years.Voters Roll records indicated that most of these properties (all of which were residential) were occupied. However, several were also listed for sale on various estate agent websites.
Local enquiries eventually ascertained that Mr P and his wife had gone to stay in their St Lucia holiday apartment some time ago but had not been seen for several months. One informant was aware that someone (possibly a family member) was the local contact for the rental properties. Internet and media searches in respect of Mr P and in conjunction with the island of St Lucia found reference to social media data indicating that Mr P ran a resort management company in St Lucia. The website showed a photo of Mr P and named him, in the photo, with his wife Mrs P and several other resort staff. Further research found that Mr P had reportedly been head of a consortium and led a buy-out of the existing resort Management Company. Sources on St Lucia confirmed that, before the buy-out, the resort was made up of a number of privately owned condominiums with the remainder of the un-sold properties still owned by the management company. The members of the consortium were all existing owners of the privately owned condominiums which ranged in value from $750,000 to $1,950,000.
We confirmed that Mr P personally owned five condominium on the complex. As part of the buy-out, the consortium, in which Mr P had a beneficial interest through his Cayman Island company, also purchased the remaining 12 unsold properties, most of which were let out to holidaymakers.
We estimated that the assets attributable to Mr P were valued at over £5m, enough to satisfy the funds owed to our client.
A UK Factoring business was approached by an individual (Mr X) seeking invoice finance to support a newly formed entity (Business X). As a matter of course the Factoring business approached De Vere Intellica to conduct background and asset searches into Mr X and his business connections.
During the course of De Vere Intellica background searches it became apparent that Mr X had approached other companies to apply for similar lending facilities and had previously approached our client using a pseudonym. De Vere Intellica presented our findings to our client and highlighted the connections discovered between Mr X, his business interests and other entities he had sought funding for. Our findings indicated that Mr X had been utilising false invoices and shipping manifests to gain funding from factoring agents for a number of years and had absconded with the monies.
De Vere Intellica then advised our clients that building a picture of Mr X and his connections would be a useful tool to prevent future frauds of this scale and would also provide an insight into targets for any potential recovery action they wished to undertake.
After extensive searches into the background of Mr X and his conduct over the previous ten years De Vere Intellica began to establish a list of figures, persons, companies and assets.
De Vere Intellica took steps to compile these details into a convenient and easy to understand i2 chart which would aid us, and our clients, in understanding the extent of the fraudulent action undertaken by Mr X over multiple years and businesses.
Using our extensive experience using the package De Vere Intellica were able to construct an elaborate web of connections between funders, assets purchased using fraudulently gained funds and associated individuals who had assisted in the fraud. The connections were categorised and detailed using separate identifiers to make further analysis of the movement of money even easier.
We passed our findings onto our client who moved to secure the assets associated with Mr X and recover the monies due to them because of Mr X’s fraudulent representation. The chart has also become a valuable tool in educating factoring clients as to the dangers of lending without suitable background understanding of the customer.
A UK Bank provided a £1.5 million loan to a Northern Irish construction business in 2007. The Director, Mr A, provided a personal guarantee to support the loan at that time. The Business, “NI Home Constructions Ltd”, went into Administration 2 years later and following a shortfall in recoveries the bank called Mr A’s personal guarantee towards the end of 2009. Mr A refused to honour the guarantee maintaining that that the guarantee provided referred to a second company which was registered in the Republic of Ireland, “ROI Home Constructions Ltd”.
The case was subsequently heard at the NI High Court which determined that there could be no doubt that there was “no arguable defence” to the Bank’s claim. And that Mr A was liable for the entire £1.5million. Following a number of failed attempts to secure the monies the bank was advised by Mr A that he was no longer in position to repay this debt and no longer had any assets.
In the latter part of 2012 De Vere Intellica was tasked with providing an analysis of Mr A’s financial position to ascertain if there were any assets which may have been purchased with the £1.5 million.
Initially extensive searches in and around Northern Ireland were undertaken to provide a picture of Mr A’s assets both disclosed and undisclosed within his immediate geographical location. These searches indicated that Mr A had created 2 secondary companies prior to the collapse of his business NI Home Constructions Ltd in 2009. Although these companies were showing a modest profit the most interesting detail was how involved his wife had become with these new entities and had in fact become the sole director at the conclusion of Mr A’s court case.
Further research revealed that Mr A had extensive connections within the ROI and De Vere Intellica advised our client that these should be explored with urgency. Searches within the ROI revealed that Mr A had indeed made extensive purchases of land and property during the first quarter of 2008. Market analysis conducted noted that these assets could account for approximately two thirds of the missing funds and we advised our client that notices should be attached to these undisclosed assets as quickly as possible.
Our research had also lead us to believe that Mr A had also invested heavily in corporate and property holdings overseas, specifically within South Africa. Utilising our extensive global connections we were able to establish that Mrs A had been involved in creating a further four corporate entities within this jurisdiction. These entities were then found to connect to a substantial land holding in the north of the country which was earmarked for development by the Government.
We passed our findings onto our client who moved to secure the undisclosed assets and recover the monies due to them through Mr A’s liability.
Mr J, a property developer based in Northern Ireland was unable to meet his liability from a series of loans he had taken out to purchase properties. De Vere Intellica were approached to investigate Mr J’s current financial position and to verify the details of the Statement of Assets he had provided to our client, a multinational banking institution.
Mr J had had extensive property holdings prior to the Irish housing market collapse in 2008. Upon the request of the bank he had provided the details and valuation of 55 properties he owned or had a beneficial interest in through a series of development businesses. At the initial examination stage the bank had accepted that these properties were the full extent of Mr J’s assets and as such had asked De Vere Intellica to verify their ownership and note respective values as well as any hidden charges that may be recorded against the sites.
Investigations into the property lead De Vere Intellica to suspect that Mr J had been truthful in providing the details of these properties and that the valuations were indeed accurate. We discovered however that Mr J had transferred a significant number of titles to his wife and had gone on to sell a further 20 titles to a Mr T for undisclosed amounts.
Using our intimate knowledge of the UK and Northern Irish property systems De Vere Intellica was able to collate the sale prices of these properties and identify that the individual who purchased these titles, Mr T, was in fact Mr J’s brother conducting these purchases using an assumed name.
A detailed examination of Mr J’s brother revealed that he had historical connections to a Northern Irish terrorist organisation and a criminal record. Mr J’s brother was established to have been involved with Mr J’s businesses and property portfolio since their incorporation and purchase of which our client, the Funder, had no prior knowledge.
De Vere Intellica was able to catalogue the sold and transferred properties and provide a detailed timeline of their sale to aid in our client’s negotiations for a settlement with Mr J.