With the recent release of the “Panama Papers,” world leaders and prominent individuals across the globe were thrust into the limelight for circumventing financial regulations and keeping money in offshore accounts. Although many of those exposed in this scandal were maintaining offshore accounts to avoid paying taxes, some appear to have had different motivations: by keeping hidden assets offshore, they could avoid paying their ex-spouses.
The story of the Panama Papers broke after a leak at the international law firm Mossack Fonseca. Files and documents were provided to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, unlocking the private financial practices of some of the world’s richest and most powerful people. Mossack Fonseca assisted many clients with incorporating companies in countries that notoriously lack financial oversight. By housing assets in offshore companies, individuals can avoid paying taxes, or in some cases, hide their assets from former spouses.
Some of the husbands identified in the Panama Papers also used Mossack Fonseca to tie up their assets in complex trust funds held by offshore shell companies before their divorces even began. By complicating their financial holdings and maintaining assets offshore, clients were able to prevent former spouses, their attorneys, and experts such as forensic accountants from accurately evaluating their total wealth.
One of the incriminated husbands was Russian billionaire Dmitri Rybolovlev, who is worth an estimated $8.5 billion. When divorcing his wife Elena after 20 years, their contentious battle over division of assets made headlines across the world. The Panama Papers revealed that Mossack Fonseca established a holding company on Rybolovlev’s behalf in the British Virgin Islands, which was subsequently used to transfer assets out of Switzerland and into Singapore and London. The millions of dollars worth of art and furniture was inaccessible Elena because the offshore company was owned solely by her husband.
In cases of high net worth divorce and even average divorces, spouses may attempt to hide assets in an effort to punish the other spouse. Divorce can be messy, fraught with resentment, and hiding assets is one common way in which these feelings manifest. Forensic accountants and knowledgeable asset division lawyers can serve as invaluable assets in cases involving suspected hidden assets and/or complex property distribution. Enlisting their expertise is highly advisable if your divorce encompasses these issues.
At Townsend, Tomaio & Newmark, our New Jersey divorce attorneys have specialized knowledge of finance-related issues in divorce, as well as relationships with some of the most well-reputed experts in finance and property valuation. Senior Partner Paul H. Townsend is particularly well-versed in this area of practice and has been published in the informational treatise Forensic Accounting in Matrimonial Divorce. To discuss your divorce with one of our skilled divorce lawyers today, contact our offices in Morris County at 973-828-0829 for a cost-free consultation.
For additional information pertaining to the story above, access the following article: The Panama Papers’ Love Connection