Fast, Joined-Up, and Digital: The Evolution of Modern Asset Tracing 

 

The legal and investigative processes that surround the tracing of assets have developed over the past few decades. However, rapid technological progress, and changing patterns of criminal behaviour and sovereign state protective measures, mean that organisations may need to revisit the way that they seek to recover assets lost to fraud or other unlawful conduct. In this briefing, Elicius Intelligence’s expert team guide you through how our own approach to asset tracing is evolving to meet modern needs.  

Asset Tracing in the Digital Age

Modern day fraud is international, electronic, and requires a different set of strategies to identify and recover assets. Just as criminal actors have developed new tools and techniques, the approaches that investigators take to tracking, identifying, and recovering assets also need to evolve and change too. Quite simply, when dealing with modern fraud and criminal cases, investigative teams need to be faster, more streamlined, and more integrated than ever before. 

The team at Elicius Intelligence has extensive experience in supporting complex asset recovery cases. We asked our inhouse experts to identify the four key trends that all businesses should be aware of when embarking on asset tracing activity. 

1. The Need for Speed

One of the key weaknesses of traditional approaches to asset tracing is that they are simply too slow. Money and other assets can zip between countries and continents with the click of a mouse, and the more time that elapses, the more mouse clicks there may be. 

This adds layers of complexity, and can make tracing and recovery more difficult. For this reason, our experts always advise clients that their speed of response is absolutely critical. 

Many organisations have developed approaches over time that are strictly linear, with a premeditated progression from desktop research to human intelligence and fieldwork, with unnecessary gateways and sequencing of artificially distinct phases of work.  Organisations are putting themselves at a disadvantage by creating needless costs and structures which both slow them down, and reduce clarity for the client.

Elicius’s approach is different. We increasingly specialise in supporting clients with rapid responses, which focus on speedy international searches that identify more easily recoverable assets within only a few days of commission. This is an increasingly attractive approach for clients, who are able to quickly take a strategic decision on the cost/benefits of carrying on with a full asset-trace.

In order to make this happen, however, speed of response is absolutely critical. Teaser reports and periods of consultation on strategy and approach not only add limited value, but by creating inevitable delays they can also ultimately make recovery more difficult. 

2. International by Default

The traditional approach to asset tracing often has a clear demarcation between jurisdictions or regions that have potential for yielding search results. Indeed, some firms will still often price per jurisdiction, charging clients a premium for work in those countries perceived as “more complex”.  Within such a structure, each country or region requires a different approach, a different fee structure, potentially a different team. This simply adds more delays while proposals are drawn up and sign-off agreed. 

This approach increasingly feels out of step with modern methods used to dissipate or conceal assets, and the tools that asset tracing teams have at their disposal.   

The reality is, that when seeking to recover assets in the modern age, the starting assumption needs to be that investigative work will take place across international borders.  The old assumption that this will inevitably load additional costs onto clients is, in our view, increasingly difficult to justify. 

Modern technology means that much of this cross-border work takes place with experienced, multilingual investigation managers at the centre of operations, behind a computer, with the ability to bring in specialist skills as and when they are required. Establishing multiple teams, in multiple countries, is not just expensive and confusing, it also increases risks around miscommunication and duplication of activity. 

3. Joined-Up Teams 

One of the key weaknesses of traditional approaches has been an overly rigid demarcation of functions between legal teams and investigators. This creates parallel workstreams and increases the potential for confusion, duplication of efforts, and may also mean that critical information is not shared at the right time. 

As with any process, the more moving parts it has, the more potential there is for things to go wrong. At Elicius, we take a different approach which is focused on delivering the most effective service for our clients. Any process which needlessly separates out teams, by profession or geography is, in our view, cumbersome and inefficient. 

Instead, we always advise a small, agile team that works in a way that fully integrates with inhouse legal teams and client counsel.  This provides speed and clarity, as well as a clear interface between client and the investigation. 

4. Understand and Embrace Technology 

Modern criminal activity demands a modern response. Technology and digital investigation can no longer be regarded as a discreet aspect of an asset tracing and recovery operation. Instead, digital tools are now central to all investigations.  When adopting a digital first strategy, it is essential that investigators have access to the latest technological approaches, which utilise dark web resources as well as those that are openly available. 

This requires knowledge, technical expertise and creativity. At Elicius, thanks to our extensive work in cyber security, we are able to go much further than simply searching in readily available government sites, and utilising expensive private aggregator databases. Instead, we deploy digital tools to look wider and deeper, for instance collecting and triangulating leaked databases on the dark web, to find information which can support effective identification of individuals and assets. 

We have also developed unique, sophisticated, proprietary tools to automate the checking of key datapoints such as corporate records, phone numbers and addresses. These save days of analyst time, not only reducing the cost to clients, but also enabling us to identify and trace assets digitally at an industry leading speed.  

It’s important to emphasise that these proprietary tools should be viewed as augmented reality goggles rather than as robotic replacements for a good investigator however – they are only as good as the analyst teams using them, which means experience and a rigorous methodology remain the most important characteristics of any asset recovery team. 

How Elicius Can Help

Elicius Intelligence specialises in developing bespoke investigative solutions for our clients. At the heart of these is a commitment to speed, clarity, and leveraging sector-leading cyber-investigation skills which help level the playing field between our clients and criminal actors. 

As an agile team, we have designed our processes from the ground up to respond to modern challenges, sweeping away the time-consuming and resource intensive linear processes which slow investigations down, and load unnecessary costs onto clients. Instead, as a growing number of satisfied clients proves, our key focus is on delivering speedy and effective resolution when it comes to identifying and recovering assets.

To find out more about how Elicius Intelligence can help you move your asset recovery activities up a gear, contact the team for a confidential discussion.

Briefings Signup

Be the first to receive our intelligence notes, cyber threat updates and investigation tools and white-papers.