Asset Tracing & Insolvency

In this insight, we look at the importance of professional asset tracing in cases of individual and company insolvency and the multidisciplinary skills and experience we at Matrix Intelligence bring.

The challenges of Asset Tracing in Insolvency cases

We live in a globalised economy, where businesses and individuals can operate across multiple jurisdictions, and move assets with considerable speed. Establishing a picture of a person’s wealth is particularly important in cases of fraud and insolvency, where the original asset is misappropriated, exchanged, or substituted for another asset.

When it comes to insolvency and tracking down the assets of a debtor, it is a contentious and complex field, one seldom straightforward. Significant challenges include:

  • Time/Location: The person in question has usually had a ‘head-start’ on placing his/her assets out of obvious sight prior to formal insolvency. They may be anywhere from foreign jurisdictions with weaker laws and enforcement, to unidentifiable associates/family members, trusts and offshore banks.
  • Funding: There are usually limited resources in what can be a costly, lengthy, and often international search.
  • Differing legal jurisdictions: If the assets are overseas, there can be many issues related to the different legal systems, accessibility of records and data protection.

Corporate intelligence has a huge role to play in the navigation of this web of legal, geographical, and human lines of cross-border investigation.

At Matrix, we have the resources, investigative knowledge, and expertise, to map the counterparties involved and understand their relationship to the debtor.

Asset Tracing Investigations

A major difficulty with an asset tracing investigation, is that there is no way of knowing in advance what the outcome will be and how it will relate to the initial cost; with insolvency practitioners (IPs) required to justify all spend.

Utilising professionals who are able to obtain the right intelligence, will clarify from the outset whether a complex pursuit is viable in terms of likely recovery and/or enforcement.

At Matrix our approach is transparent and accountable. We will advise if the outcome is likely to be positive or not, i.e. if we assess that the target has no material or obvious assets.

We conduct our preliminary asset tracing investigation at no cost to the client, allowing us to honestly manage their expectations and shape the initial case strategy.

We split our investigations into two distinct phases, both outlined and clearly costed, in our client proposal:

Phase 1 – Open Source Intelligence (OSINT): this is the identification, access and analysis of relevant public records, wherever in the world they may be, and in whatever language. It is based on a specific intelligence requirement and framework, due to the sheer volume.

This can range from information available on major search engines, to that of the deep web i.e. documents not indexed, including databases and files. These days, most countries have digitised important records, such as shipping data or corporate filings, but the level of accuracy differs depending on jurisdiction.

Once we complete OSINT and identify potential leads to assets, we often need to progress to HUMINT to delve deeper.

Phase 2 – Human Intelligence (HUMINT): entails the gathering of information and intelligence, through our established network of tried and tested human source experts, from numerous backgrounds, including the military, police, journalists and local investigators.

This can be an important route for gathering valuable information from people such as former employees; clients or advisors to the debtor.

By using this balanced methodology, we offer clients a realistic outcome which is actionable and highly-effective. Our findings are then presented in a concise, factual and court-ready manner.

The future of Asset Tracing and Insolvency

We are at the precipice of a rise in UK insolvency due to a downturn in the global economy; in large, attributable to the repercussions of Covid-19. Government measures enabled debtors a stay of execution in facing their creditors, however; time is running out and many will now inevitably be targeted with insolvency legislation.

When coupled with the more creative ways that individuals are able to hide their assets, particularly with developments in new technologies, the requirement to engage professional investigators is greater than ever.

Whilst costs underlie most decisions made by IPs, engaging specialist intelligence companies such as Matrix, to gather the correct intelligence and build a strong, cost-effective case is key to successful recovery.

Professional investigators are as important to a successful outcome as forensic accountants, or lawyers. Failure to employ one could result in a lost Court case and little or no returns to creditors.

For more information on our asset tracing capabilities, contact us at: or online at


Matrix Intelligence Featured In "MarketWatch" Covering Asset Tracing & The Benefit Of Engaging An Intelligence Agency

In November 2021 MarketWatch featured Matrix Intelligence's Stuart Mc Donald MC who discussed the challenges of asset tracing and the benefits of engaging an intelligence agency to assist.

Asset tracing, put simply, is the process by which investigators conduct enquiries to establish a subject’s wealth, their assets and where and how they are held. It is typically conducted in support of litigation or insolvency proceedings and excepting the most basic of cases, it is a complex, time consuming and expensive undertaking; not to mention frustrating. That is not to say asset tracing is a dark art, or unachievable, however; if an individual wishes to hide their assets, then tracing them becomes a costly and sometimes prohibitive exercise.

How do people hide their assets?

There are various means which individuals employ to put wealth beyond the reach of the courts, creditors, or tax authorities, including: using associates or friends to hold assets on their behalf, spreading their wealth amongst multiple asset classes, incl. cash, moveable assets (vehicles, art, jewellery, yachts, planes etc.) real estate, equities and cryptocurrencies, and the use the shell companies and offshore jurisdictions. Read more about hiding assets here.

Offshore Jurisdictions

The use of offshore jurisdictions features in most complex investigations, due to their opacity and inappropriately high level of client confidentiality; enabling people to operate within them with relative impunity. In sophisticated cases, individuals employ complex mechanisms, spanning several countries, with a chain of intermediaries and a network of shell companies, offshore structures, and nominee arrangements to and hide their identity as ultimate beneficial owners and mask their activities.

What tools are employed to trace assets?

Broadly speaking, the main protocols for gathering information are Open-Source Intelligence (OSINT) and Human Intelligence (HUMINT).

OSINT is a precursor to any investigation, and this entails the collection and collation of intelligence from public domain resources, including proprietary databases and public records to find court pleadings, exhibits, and bankruptcy filings that may contain relative information or provide alternate leads. This can in itself occasionally identify assets, however; its utility is more as an information gathering protocol to inform a wider investigative strategy. OSINT also has limitations, as its use entails navigation of data protection laws and jurisdiction specific legislation and the accuracy of data varies from one jurisdiction to the next, especially when working in the context of failed states.

OSINT searches are supplemented with online and local media enquiries and social media to enhance the profiles of the individual/s involved. The latter being particularly useful for gaining an insight into the individual’s lifestyle and the jurisdictions which they frequent.

A more reliable and generally successful means of gathering intelligence to support an asset trace, is HUMINT, which, as the name suggest, is the collection of information from people. Not all intelligence agencies can deliver this, as networks typically take years to establish, with sources having to evidence the validity of their information before they can be regarded as a ‘trusted source’.

HUMINT can be used in a variety of ways, including discreet local enquiries around the targets home address, their office, or where their colleagues and staff socialise. Using a suitable pretext and the aim is to gather as much information about a Subject as possible, without making the person you are talking to aware of your intent. The major pitfall of this approach is that people can lie to ingratiate themselves to someone.

Why engage an intelligence firm?

The benefit of engaging an intelligence firm, is that you are buying their expertise and know-how.

At Matrix Intelligence, we have extensive experience of asset tracing and the conduct of multi-jurisdictional and cross border complex investigations. We also understand the difference between intelligence and evidence required for use in a Court of Law. Prior to accepting any instruction, we always conduct a preliminary investigation, at no cost to the client. Not only does this enable us to prepare a properly phased and costed proposal, but it also allows the client to see how their funds will be spent and enables us to manage their expectations of an investigation delivering the desired outcome. This is crucial, as any investigation must be costed proportionate to the matter in hand and there is no efficacy in commissioning action if the assets recoverable are less than the total cost of the investigation (including legal fees, litigation funding, recovery costs etc.).

We operate globally, but specialise in the UK, Europe (especially Eastern Europe), the Middle East, North, East and West Africa, Asia, North America, and most well-known offshore jurisdictions.

For more information, contact us at: or online at

Click here for more Asset Tracing insights >

new law journal

Matrix Intelligence Featured In "New Law Journal" Covering Corporate Investigations & Intelligence

new law journal

We are delighted to have been interviewed by the New Law Journal to discuss the importance of corporate investigations and intelligence.

Founders Dominika Jaskiewicz and Stuart McDonald MC provide an insight into their business.

Click here for article PDF.

Click here to see the article page on “New Law Journal” website.

Fraud Investigation

Matrix Intelligence Featured In "The Mirror" Covering Fraud

Matrix Intelligence's Stuart McDonald covers fraud in a featured article for The Mirror, "Fed-up with the lack of police results, victims of fraud are going private".

Companies and individuals hit by frauds are losing faith that the police will help and are instead turning to private investigation experts.

A briefing for finance industry insiders heard how just 3% of fraud cases result in charges or prosecution.

Stuart McDonald of corporate investigations company Matrix Intelligence also cited figures showing a 20% increase in online shopping and auction fraud last year, and a 61% increase in remote banking fraud.

“Depressingly, fraud is now the most likely crime that members of the British public will become a victim of, with more than one in three of us being affected, but just over 1% of police resources are dedicated to dealing with it,” he said.

“That is probably the most depressing statistic of them all.”

“Very often when we have someone come to us we direct them to the police and they simply come back and say they realise that they’re going to get no satisfaction via that mechanism and ask could they pay to potentially investigate privately.”

“It’s not ideal but it is something that we do if the client has the resources and we deem there’s a likelihood of successful recovery.”

“If there isn’t, then it’s about management of expectations and saying to the client we believe they should cut their loses.”

Click here to see the full article in The Mirror.

Fraud Investigation

Fraud Investigation

New York Law Firm

“We engaged Matrix to locate an individual suspected of participating in an international fraud scheme. The engagement required enquiries in Russia and the UK in connection with prosecuting legal claims in the US. Matrix produced results in a format submissible to the court on a very tight deadline. Matrix was a pleasure to work with under difficult circumstances and the work product was invaluable.”


Global People Tracing

Global People Tracing

We were engaged by a multinational legal firm to assist with global people tracing those wanted in connection with a multi-billion Euro fraud against the German government.

The information provided for each individual was minimal, dated back several years and involved traces in: Australia, Dubai, Germany, Ireland, Switzerland and the UK. The turnaround time was incredibly tight, as the case had been running for a number of years and there was a fast expiring deadline for serving the Subjects.


We commenced our search using OSINT (open source intelligence), however; whereas this provided partial indicators for some of the Subjects, we had to progress almost immediately with the conduct of HUMINT (human source intelligence) enquiries and more traditional techniques such as: visiting last known addresses, known acquaintances and employers. One individual in particular had gone to great lengths to conceal his whereabouts, however; we knew he stored his private plane collection at an airport in the Middle East and we were eventually able to track him through this lead..

We successfully traced every subject within time and added another very impressed client to our personal contacts.

Working with Matrix Intelligence

At Matrix we understand the difference between intelligence and evidence required for use in a Court of Law and have extensive knowledge of the legal system, enforcement regimes and cultural practices within those jurisdictions most commonly associated with hidden assets.

Please contact us directly for more information regarding our cross-border investigations, global people tracing capabilities and bespoke services.

Fraud Investigation

Fraud Investigation

We were engaged by a New York based lawyer to assist with a fraud investigation against a Russian Citizen. The fraud was committed in America and it was believed the suspect subsequently moved to the UK.

The nature of the fraud investigation was very niche and our sole task was to obtain a copy of the Subject’s signature, so that our client could verify whether or not it matched the signature on a document in their possession.


We traced the individual to the UK, however; there was no lead which could plausibly take us towards obtaining a copy of their signature. We therefore switched focus and conducted enquiries in Russia. We briefed a trusted source with whom we work and we discussed the methods by which a copy of the Subject’s signature could legitimately be obtained through publicly accessible documentation.

Our source conducted multiple local enquiries in Moscow and was able to secure a copy of the Subject’s signature on official documentation. Comparative analysis verified that the signature was indeed the same and their enabled our client to proceed with a prosecution against them.

Working with Matrix Intelligence

Matrix Intelligence are regularly engaged by legal firms, litigation funders and HNWs to undertake risk analysis, due diligence and pre-litigation profiling to ascertain an individual’s: estimated wealth, background, corporate affiliations and discover any reputational red flags. Experts in this field, with over a decade’s experience, we are perfectly placed to advise and assist with high-end disputes and litigation.

Hidden Assets

How Do People Hide Their Assets?

There are various tactics which individuals can employ for hidden assets in an attempt to put them beyond the reach of the courts, or creditors. Typically, this will involve spreading their wealth across a variety of asset classes and the use of offshore jurisdictions.

An asset is defined as “an item of property owned by a person or company, regarded as having value and available to meet debts, commitments or legacies.”

Criminals or fraudsters will have hidden assets in an attempt to prevent paying taxes, avoid civil forfeiture, or apprehension. At a basic level they will employ friends or family to assist them, or if they are more creative, they will use worldwide offshore accounts which are disguised by shell companies.

It is not just criminals who go to such lengths and Spouses who are undergoing or preparing for divorce proceedings often have hidden assets by: placing cash in a safe place, underreporting income or tax returns, deferring salary or receipt of a work-related bonus, transferring stock, or setting up a custodial account.

The various asset classes which people utilise to hide wealth include:

  • Cash at bank - Most people are attracted to the accessibility of cash and use accounts in high street accounts or offshore banks to hide at least part of their money. The account will be opened utilising fake credentials or a third party, which makes it incredibly hard to trace.
  • Moveable assets - This include items such as cars, high-end paintings, expensive wine, jewellery, yachts or airplanes. Much like cash, this form of asset is highly desirable, as it is typically easy to move and conceal (either physical, or its ownership) and pleasure can also be derived from it.
  • Real Estate - This encompasses: residential, commercial, industrial and land. People can invest in a classic residential property, commercial property, such as an offices or restaurants, industrial warehouses, or purchase a plot of land and hide their ownership by doing so through a third party, or subsequently transferring ownership to family members.
  • Equities - Equity is purchased in a company and individual ownership is concealed by utilising a company registered in an offshore jurisdiction to make the transaction or by subsequently transferring the holding to family or friends.
  • Cryptocurrencies – The newest and perhaps most significant new asset class in recent years is cryptocurrency; a virtual currency which can either held as an asset in its own right, or utilised to make online transactions. The best-known example of a cryptocurrency is bitcoin and this is well known to be utilised by criminals in order to hide money. As bitcoins are virtual assets, this enables an individual to easily conceal their ownership in a virtual wallet, which is incredibly hard to track; in part facilitated by the lack of worldwide legislation to regulate the industry.

Offshore Jurisdictions

Offshore jurisdictions can be used for perfectly legally for activities such as tax avoidance, however; they are more synonymous with illegal activities such as tax evasion (non-residents evading tax in their actual country of residence) and money laundering (returning criminal/illegal money back into circulation). The prime reason they are attractive to criminals, is their inappropriately high level of client confidentiality; enabling criminals to operate within them with relative impunity.

Individuals and companies alike exploit offshore jurisdictions and as a general rule, the wealthier they are, the more embedded they are; with some having hundreds of offshore subsidiaries. In 2017, it was estimated that individuals had hidden $8.7 trillion. Whereas much of this money may be clean, a sizeable amount could be considered dirty and is doubtless being laundered by criminals who are exploiting the secrecy of offshore jurisdictions for illegal activities such as money laundering. In sophisticated cases, they do so by utilising complex mechanisms, spanning several countries, with a chain of intermediaries and a network of shell companies, offshore structures and nominee arrangements to mask their activities and hide the identity of ultimate beneficial owners (the person/s who invest in, control, or otherwise benefit from an asset, such as a bank account, real estate property, company, or trust).

What can be done to find hidden assets?

Asset Tracing is the process whereby investigators conduct specialist financial enquiries to determine a subject's wealth, their assets and where and how they are held. It is a highly complex series of protocols that requires expert professional support in any jurisdiction.

The process is often far from simple and can be highly complex and time-consuming and it is especially difficult for those working in the context of failed states, widespread corruption, or with limited resources. Other challenges include navigating data protection laws, treaties and jurisdiction specific legislation.

Matrix Intelligence understands the difference between intelligence and evidence required for use in a Court of Law. We have extensive knowledge of the legal system, enforcement regimes and cultural practices within the jurisdictions that we most commonly operate.

Before we accept any case, we first require sufficient details to enable us to conduct a preliminary investigation (at no cost to our client). Only then are we able to propose a coherent and phased strategy to meet both the client’s requirement and budget. We value integrity and if we believe that a case has little likelihood of a positive outcome (time and cost-efficient), we will advise accordingly.

Having conducted extensive multi-jurisdictional and cross border complex investigations, we are experts at assisting with commercial and high-end litigation.

We deliver reliable and actionable intelligence for lawyers, financial firms, corporate clients, third party funders and HNW individuals – worldwide. We operate internationally and have exceptional capabilities in Eastern Europe and all offshore banking jurisdictions. For more information, contact us at: or online at

Know Your Customer - KYC - Matrix Intelligence

Do You ‘Know Your Customer’?

The term ‘know your customer’ or ‘KYC’ is sometimes mentioned with careless abandon, however; as the process by which companies verify the true identity of their clients and any associated potential risks, it is vitally important. Customer and third party due diligence should form the foundation of a every company’s compliance program.

Companies and financial institutions of all sizes use KYC as a tool to combat fraud and money laundering. It is also a helpful due diligence tool to protect companies from entering into potentially fraudulent or illegal transactions. It can be conducted against an individual, or a company/organisation (Subject/s).

The key components of a KYC check will include:

  • Verification and authentication of a Subject’s identity.
  • Review of address history.
  • Screening against all sanctions lists, watch lists and politically exposed persons (PEP) lists.
  • Verification of a Subject’s business profile; including occupation and corporate affiliations (past and present).
  • Verification of all relationships within the organisation and its subsidiaries.

To counter potential fraud, the above checks should leverage third-party data and sources, such as credit reports, to help validate the information provided by the client.

Know Your Customer For High-Risk Clients

Know Your Customer can also include ‘Enhanced Due Diligence’ (EDD) for clients that may pose a higher risk; either due to their personal profile or association with a high-risk jurisdiction.

The initial risk assessment of a Subject will determine the requirement for additional due diligence, if any. Those deemed ‘Low- risk’ may be screened through a simplified due diligence process; often the minimum required under the given jurisdiction’s AML regulation. Publicly traded companies are a good example of ‘low- risk’ clients.

Those deemed ‘High-risk’ should go through an enhanced due diligence (EDD) process that includes:

  • Verification of source of funds and wealth.
  • Beneficial ownership identification.
  • Additional investigation into the information supplied by the client; utilising multiple sources.
  • Verification of all business activities through human source intelligence.

Even after an initial report has been conducted into a ‘high-risk’ Subject, Companies should establish periodic reviews of the data to ensure that their profile remains within their risk profile.

Know Your Customer High-Risk Jurisdictions

Certain jurisdictions are universally recognised as ‘higher risk’ due to their opacity, high levels of corruption, links with money laundering or unstable governments. When conducting business within such jurisdictions, or with people who are linked to them, companies should take extra care to help protect themselves and their clients against fraud, money laundering, corruption or terrorist financing.

Examples of sources that can help verify if a country is deemed to be high risk include Transparency International’s “Corruption Perceptions Index” and the US State Department’s annual International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR), which rates countries based on their money laundering controls and corruption.

It is also prudent to check if a given jurisdiction is a member of Financial Action Task Force; and whether or not there is a high incidence within the country of activities such as financial crime, or drug trafficking.

Matrix capabilities

Whether it is pre-transactional, or financial due diligence, we provide our clients with the intelligence they need to understand the risks they face and make fully informed decisions to further their stated aims.

Our KYC checks can be performed as a standalone service, or as part of an overall due-diligence task, and our standard report includes:

  • Passport verification, including ID and current residence on customers, clients and suppliers.
  • Litigation; historical and current.
  • Corporate affiliations.
  • Reputational screening, with a focus on red flags.
  • Evaluation of any potential risks to your business.
  • Screening against Sanctions and Politically Exposed Persons (PEP) lists, Relatives and Close Associates, and Special Interest Persons & Entities.

Working with Matrix Intelligence

Matrix Intelligence undertake Know Your Customer (KYC), risk analysis and Due Diligence investigations prior to acquisitions, joint ventures or investments. Ideally, we are engaged at an early stage before legal costs and other professional fees are incurred; as this will mitigate the impact if adverse legal, financial or operational issues come to light.

We provide detailed and cost-effective reports, prepared by a team of specialists, to enable our clients to make informed and timely commercial decisions.

Please contact us with any queries about our services.