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Case Studies

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Becker v Becker and the debt owed to Arbuthnot Latham.

Wimbledon is here, as is the traditional rain, and Wandsworth prison is a stone’s throw from Centre court. In this dilapidated Victorian jail, Boris Becker languishes under sentence of 2½ years imprisonment as a consequence of hiding assets in breach of insolvency law. <br/><br/> As is often the approach in such cases, a friend of a friend got in touch about a sensitive issue involving a high net-worth couple and their divorce. The wife was seeking help as she believed that her husband was hiding assets. Several days later we found ourselves sitting in the front room of a home in Southwest London with Lilly Becker - model, campaigner, TV celebrity and most importantly, mother of Amadeus and estranged wife of Boris Becker, the youngest ever male Wimbledon Champion. <br /></br/> Such cases are complex and far from straightforward in terms of asset tracing. When teasing out the facts, client care is a priority: sensitivity is essential, as is careful navigation around the pain that separation can cause. <br /></br/> We were late off the starting blocks; the insolvency case was progressing and already in the news; experts at Grant Thornton were already diligently gathering evidence to support the prosecution case against Boris, which ultimately saw him convicted and sent to prison. <br /></br/> What was left for us to do? Boris’ finances were already being pored over following the exercise of coercive powers available through insolvency law. Our financial investigation was constrained because Lilly, like many women in such cases, had largely been ‘kept in the dark’, and the family courts lack the clout of the civil and criminal courts armed with insolvency legislation powers. We went back to basics. We asked Lilly to search the house for all old documents relating to jointly held financial interests (private information pertaining to Boris alone we excluded from our inquiries). There was not a lot, some photographs but a little more. There was, of course, their huge online presence to trawl through. <br /></br/> The use of Geo-Int (analysis of open data alongside geo-location software to identify exact locations, worldwide, and changes to those environments) enabled us to start our reverse imagery inquiries. We had a few standard print photos to work with. Exif Data embedded in digital files was not an option, and as most social media platforms now strip out this data, it had to be the old-fashioned approach. We interviewed friends and family, examined Boris’ global electronic footprint, and slowly pieced together the couple’s complex, highly public, and busy lifestyle. Every location, every holiday, every business trip - any single move may have helped us to identify a property, a business interest, a business associate, or a lead who could help to identify assets. <br /></br/> A few old and innocuous-looking photographs led us to a building in Central London, within which we were able to pinpoint an exact 4m² location as that in the photograph. From there, we teased out a thread and the concealment of assets slowly came undone. We identified the professional who managed the multi-million-pound asset held in trust and which had remained undisclosed. <br /></br/> You may have heard interesting stories about Boris and the Central African Republic. It is a country I’m familiar with, having investigated grand corruption there previously. We followed travel between Africa, Dubai, Germany, London and other locations. The web of complex and interesting business relationships started to unfold. Had this been a criminal matter we would have requested assistance from foreign counterparts to enable us to prise open bank accounts and understand their financial relationship with Boris. But this was not an option for a family court matter on a limited budget. <br /></br/> We succeeded in identifying assets not previously disclosed by Boris, including a multi-million-pound apartment, a dilapidated Finca in Majorca, flats in Germany purchased for Boris’ family, and businesses sold as finances appeared to get tighter. We had one final area to explore - sometimes referred to in litigation and contentious matters as strategic communications. How would the court of public opinion feel if the situation were to spiral further out of control? Would Boris’ earnings, now largely dependent on commentary work, suffer if the divorce were not settled and public light was continually shone on this turbulent period of his life? <br /></br/> Utilising state election campaign expertise and analytical tools, we were able to conclusively show how the public perceived Boris, how that perception would change and the potential impact this would have on his public profile – the sentiment towards him – and his earnings. Our analysis ran to 20 pages which we worked through with our client; armed with this information she decided to take the matter forward. For legal reasons, I cannot explain the outcome other than to say at that stage it was positive. <br /></br/> This article is published with the consent of Lilly Becker. <br /></br/> Jonathan Benton is a former Detective Superintendent who led global, international asset recovery cases involving high-profile kleptocrats. Jonathan is the CEO of Intelligent Sanctuary and founder of Intelligent Sanctuary Foundation; his clients range from international banks to leading legal professionals.
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Jonathan Benton
“Divorces can be difficult situations to negotiate without the demands of the press and media added on top. Easing the process with a successful investigation added great value to our client.”
Jonathan Benton

Chief Executive Officer and Founder
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A Norwegian renewable energy company, in a complex, multi-layered pan European litigation case.

Our client, a Norwegian listed company; operating in the Renewable Energy industry sector, instructed iSanctuary to assist their ongoing litigation arising from their acquisition of Italian photovoltaic plants from a Luxembourg/Switzerland Joint Venture entity. <br /><br /> Previously, our client paid substantial monies to purchase the plants; within six days of purchase, two of the JV directors were indicted by the Italian authorities for fraud. As a result, the Italian National State Energy company suspended the awarding of tariffs for the photovoltaic plants, rendering them worthless. <br /><br /> Our remit focused on several aspects of the case, which had been in litigation since 2015, including criminal investigations concurrently being undertaken by the Italian Guardia di Finanza (GdF) and associated bankruptcy proceedings. <br /><br /> We built a bespoke digital case management system; employed by our client and their respective legal representatives. This was imperative to maintain the integrity of evidence, disclosure obligations and management of over 2TB of documents. Through analysis of disclosed material and our investigations, we discovered previously unknown complex corporate structures involved in the deal; mapped the money flows establishing which companies held assets and in what jurisdictions, and their ‘direct’ links to a sanctioned Russian PEP (Politically Exposed Person). <br /><br /> Identification of assets has been a crucial element in this case, as it has provided our client with the confidence to pursue and focus their litigation strategy as they now hold the knowledge that there are assets of circa EUR 200 million available. <br />We have prepared and submitted evidential statements; supporting our client’s action(s), given evidence of our findings in court, and engaged with law enforcement agencies in several jurisdictions to further our client’s case.
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George Simpson
“The court agrees [with the client] that their team of advisers and hired professional investigative resources has done an impressive job of clarifying the facts of the case, particularly by obtaining, compiling and analysing a large amount of written documentation.”
George Simpson

Director of operations, investigations and regulation services
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Assessing the Adequacy of a European Anti-Corruption Agency Investigation: An iSanctuary Expert Review.

Acting for a private client, iSanctuary was commissioned to review a criminal investigation undertaken by a European anti-corruption agency following allegations of corruption, made by our client, against government officials in a position of influence for regulating the client’s business, a regulated financial institution. <br /> We were required to review voluminous amounts of investigative material and prepare an expert witness statement for service in civil proceedings, all within a noticeably brief time limit. We reviewed the material, which was not in the English language, and took into consideration both the regulatory framework and criminal investigation regime within the country in question. <br /> We were able to provide a comprehensive and detailed report, highlighting our expectations as to what an investigation (into allegations of state-level corruption) should cover as a bare minimum, highlighted specific areas where the investigation was assessed to be deficient, in terms of scope, and accentuated lines of enquiry that should have been considered and/or followed up.
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Matt Gardner
“This was a really challenging case as we had to undertake our assessment and make judgements based on the regulatory framework in place, in the jurisdiction where the financial institution was domiciled, together with the criminal legislation and investigative regime that investigators were required to work to.“
Matt Gardner

Chief Operations Officer