What is asset tracing?


Put simply, asset tracing (sometimes also called asset tracking) is the legal process of locating something of value to a company or individual, and which has been misappropriated.

In other words, asset tracing identifies valuables or property the client wishes to recover, either by negotiated settlement or through the courts. Assets can be anything an individual or business owns, from stocks and shares to vehicles, undisclosed bank accounts and possessions (including crypto assets such as bitcoin and digital tokens).

There is usually a clear link with theft or fraud, where someone has been separated from their assets through events including embezzlement, a scam or similar, and now they want to get those assets back.

For example, say a business partner has absconded with a large sum of cash. Asset tracing would be a valuable method in this case for finding and recovering this money. The tools used will assess the value of the asset, the company’s ownership structure, what other assets the fraudster had, how liquid those assets are and what, realistically, the chances of recovery are, while also identifying the jurisdiction in which the asset is located. This is often referred to as chain of custody process and is a valuable source of evidence in legal proceedings.

This information means that those who are doing the chasing (e.g. other directors or shareholders and trustees) can now decide whether it’s worth proceeding with litigation and what they can do meanwhile to maximise the chances of recovering their assets. Equally, they are in a better position to look at an early settlement.

Similarly, if you’re going through a divorce and believe your soon-to-be ex-spouse could be hiding property or funds from your legal team, asset tracing will again prove invaluable. Our forensics and investigations teams use asset tracing to look for any financial discrepancies and calculate whether one half of the couple is indeed concealing assets and income. Plus, of course, it can supply the evidence to substantiate any claim you will make.

What’s actually involved?

Asset tracing is essentially about finding important information that will benefit the person who wishes to recover the assets. This can be done in a number of different ways, from looking at public registers to studying company and land registries; tax, customs, criminal or court records, and a lot more besides.

The process and the associated tools  can trace the full history of an asset, as well as locating and identifying them in order to freeze them and make them available in a claim.

It’s not always a simple business. Those suspected of fraud or misrepresentation can often make it difficult to find out where assets are hidden (also known as asset sheltering or fraudulent concealment), or assets could have been spent, sold or placed somewhere hard to find. They may even have been moved across borders, requiring specialist knowledge of different legal systems, and making it important to seek the right advice on your options for maximising the chances of successful recovery.

It’s also important to act quickly since, as time passes, the chances of finding an asset and being able to secure its availability becomes increasingly uncertain.

How we help

At Hayes Forensics we help in financial disputes, deciding quickly and early on in the process whether forensic investigation can uncover significant sums, and whether the associated costs are justified. Act now rather than when you are in court, where you may be limited in what further action you can take.

Talk to us to learn more about your options. We provide an initial free phone consultation – get in touch today.

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