At Saunders Law, we provide high-quality asset recovery advice and representation to defendants and claimants caught up in civil or commercial fraud. Asset recovery is the process by which assets obtained by illegal means are traced and recovered.
For individuals and businesses who believe they have fallen victim to fraud, our commercial litigation experts can assist in the recovery of assets – both in the UK and internationally – lost due to the fraud. We also defend clients who are accused of fraud to ensure their assets and rights are protected during a dispute. For advice on any aspect of domestic or international asset recovery, contact our expert commercial litigation lawyers today.
We are a partner-led, niche litigation practice based in Central London and in order to provide exceptional service for our clients, we only offer strategic, high-level advice and representation. As a result, we cannot cost-effectively handle claims with a value below £10,000.
However, for clients who are involved in a commercial dispute exceeding this amount and want a team of fierce litigators determined to get the required results, contact Saunders today.
Our civil fraud and asset recovery expertise
Our established civil fraud and asset recovery solicitors can assist with a wide range of legal strategies to prevent and remedy the misappropriation of assets, including:
- Freezing orders, also referred to as freezing injunctions
- Search orders
- Disclosure orders
- Travel restraint orders
- Cross-examination orders
- Civil arrest warrants
- International asset tracing and recovery
- Civil conspiracy
Every member of our reputable team has developed their commercial litigation skills over many years to provide an exemplary service based on a high level of legal knowledge and business acumen.
When can civil fraud occur?
Civil or commercial fraud is a broad term covering a number of different circumstances. In general terms, it takes place when a fraudulent misrepresentation was made by the defendant to the claimant. Fraudulent misrepresentation occurs where:
- the defendant makes a false statement;
- the defendant knows the statement is false;
- the defendant intends the statement to be relied on by the claimant; and
- the claimant suffers loss as a result.
How to prevent the disposal of misappropriated assets
For those who have suffered loss as a result of civil or commercial fraud, there are various ways our asset recovery lawyers can help to prevent assets from being disposed of while a civil claim is in progress.
An interim freezing order/injunction is one of the most powerful methods, as it can provide the power to restrain all types of assets – including property, land, shares and bank accounts – held by the defendant and any third parties on their behalf. Freezing injunctions require the defendant to provide full disclosure of all their assets and can require relevant third parties to provide details on all the assets they hold for the defendant. This information can be invaluable to the asset tracing and recovery process, so we may recommend obtaining a freezing order/injunction.
In the most serious cases of civil or commercial fraud, a search and seize order (also just referred to as a search order) may be granted by the court. This order allows items to be seized from the defendant’s properties, where there is a serious risk that stolen assets may be disposed of.
Asset tracing and techniques
There are many methods that our commercial litigation solicitors may use when tracing and recovering misappropriated assets.
This involves investigating key sources of information, such as the Land Registry, Companies House and even social media accounts. These sources can provide vital details for asset tracing and recovery, such as the ownership of a property and the current financial situation of a particular company.
Piercing the corporate veil
Depending on the nature of the case, it may be more suitable to bring the claim against the company the defendant worked for rather than the defendant themselves. In civil fraud cases, it is possible to “pierce the corporate veil”, allowing civil fraud victims to pursue the directors of the company responsible for their loss.
Third party disclosures
In asset recovery law, third parties, such as banks, estate agents and professional consultants, can also be key to the asset recovery process, as they often hold information that is not offered or available from the defendant. In some cases, it may be possible to apply to the court for a disclosure order to order a third party to disclose information.
Third party claims
It may also be appropriate to bring a civil fraud claim against a third party where there is sufficient evidence to show a third party participated in the fraud or benefited from it.
At Saunders Law, we have advised and represented many individual and corporate clients throughout the civil fraud claims process. Our fraud recovery specialists assess the claimant’s evidence to decide on the most successful strategy, apply for interim injunctions that prevent the assets from being disposed of while the dispute is underway, and represent clients at trial and secure the recovery of their assets.
We apply our expertise in commercial, criminal and regulatory law, as well as in cross-border litigation, and work closely with external experts to provide the best possible advice and strategy for the recovery of assets. Contact us today for expert advice and decisive action for civil fraud disputes.
Asset recovery defence advice in England and Wales
Asset recovery procedures can have a serious impact on defendants. It is important that individuals subject to allegations of fraud seek advice and representation from a fraud recovery specialist without delay.
At Saunders Law, we understand that freezing orders and search, and seizure orders can have a significant impact on a person’s livelihood and reputation. We act on behalf of those who are facing allegations of civil fraud to ensure their assets are not unreasonably restricted and that their rights, in particular relating to data protection, are not neglected by the terms of freezing or search and seizure order. High-value cases can attract significant media attention, and in these cases, we will ensure rules on confidentiality are obeyed and that there is minimal reputational damage.
Common questions about civil fraud and asset recovery
What is the difference between civil fraud and criminal fraud?
Civil fraud is a way for victims to pursue action in the civil courts, usually to recover assets, claim compensation and/or obtain an injunction.
Criminal fraud is a criminal offence for which the perpetrator can be prosecuted by prosecuting authorities, such as the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) or Serious Fraud Office (SFO). The possible sanctions include a prison sentence, fine, or confiscation proceedings.
Criminal and civil proceedings often run in parallel, so the prospect of criminal proceedings need not put individuals and businesses off from making a claim.
Civil proceedings or report the fraud to the authorities?
No one is under any obligation to report fraud to prosecuting authorities even if they have decided to pursue a civil claim. It is possible to lose control of the situation. For example, the police have their own procedures for obtaining evidence and securing assets. The standard of proof for civil cases is also lower than criminal cases – the claimant need only prove that on the balance of probability that civil fraud occurred.
It may also be the case that the civil fraud claim will need to be put on hold until the criminal proceedings are concluded. In serious and high value cases, this could take years.
Is it possible to freeze someone’s assets?
To obtain a freezing order, the applicant must satisfy the court that:
- They have a substantive cause of action
- They have a good arguable case
- There is a real risk that the respondent will dissipate their assets
- It must be just and convenient to grant the freezing order
The applicant must also:
- Come to the proceedings with ‘clean hands’, meaning they themselves must be free of wrongdoing
- The applicant must not delay in bringing a freezing order application
There is a duty on the applicant to make ‘full and frank disclosure’ of all relevant information. Applicants are generally required to make an undertaking to pay damages to the respondent if it is later shown that the freezing order should not have been made.
Freezing order applications tend to be made ‘without notice’ so as to prevent the respondent from disposing of their assets before they can be frozen. Therefore, the judge will list a further hearing at which the respondent may request the order be discharged or varied.
What assets are affected by a freezing order?
The freezing order can freeze all asset classes, including money in bank accounts, land, shares, vehicles, and assets held beneficially for another party, such as in a trust.
Depending on the wording of the order, it may be limited to the value of the civil fraud claim (referred to as a ‘maximum sum order’). Alternatively, it may refer to a specific asset or cover all the respondent’s assets.
Can a freezing order freeze overseas assets?
Yes, a freezing order can restrain someone from moving or disposing of assets both within the country and internationally. However, a worldwide freezing order must be accompanied by action in the jurisdiction in which the assets are held. Obtaining a freezing order in England or Wales does not automatically guarantee that international asset recovery will be successful.
How does someone challenge a freezing order over their assets?
Freezing orders or freezing injunctions are usually obtained without notice, so the affected individual is unlikely to hear about it until the order is made. However, the court will also list a further hearing, usually within seven days of the order being made, which allows them the opportunity to challenge it.
Successful challenges are made on the basis that the applicant did not prove the legal requirements to make a freezing order, for example, that there is no real risk that the respondent will dissipate their assets. The respondent can also argue against a freezing order on the basis that it is too oppressive or prevents them from maintaining their ordinary living, business or legal expenses.
If the claimant is found to have wrongly obtained a freezing order against the respondent, they may receive damages.
How does someone obtain a search order to seize assets or evidence?
A search order will be granted if the applicant can satisfy the following legal requirements:
- They have an ‘extremely strong prima facie case’ – this means the case will be accepted until otherwise rebutted
- The respondent’s fraud has resulted in serious damage or potential damage to the applicant’s interests
- There is evidence that the respondent is in possession of incriminating material or objects
- There is a ‘real possibility’ that the respondent will dispose of the material or objects
Search orders can only apply to assets within the jurisdiction.
Contact our Asset Recovery Solicitors in London
Our civil litigation lawyers are well versed in asset recovery law and have extensive experience acting for both claimants and defendants in asset recovery cases. We have successfully represented clients in many high-profile disputes, often involving the tracing and recovery of assets from various jurisdictions.
For individuals and businesses who need advice on any asset recovery issue or any other commercial litigation matter, please contact us for a free, no-obligation discussion to find out how we can help.