It is reported that Ruja Ignatova had £500,000 of artwork held in her penthouse, complete with a swimming pool, and enjoyed splashing out on designer-label goods. This was approximately two years after the launch of OneCoin, which generated approximately $4 billion from fraudulent activities.

By itself, this expenditure on a luxurious lifestyle does not necessarily constitute wrongdoing. However, in cases of fraud and misappropriated assets, we often find that legitimate earnings of the individual do not cover the apparent standard of living they enjoy and further enquiries are required.

Forensic accountants are often engaged to not only consider the quantum of sums misappropriated, but also: the method of doing so; the individuals involved; and an assessment of the potential recoverability of assets. This often entails considering the likelihood of recovery, taking a proportionate approach for focus and commerciality.

Forensic analysis of an individual’s lifestyle can assist with spotting patterns of behaviour, determining the asset base, sources of information, and areas for further investigation. We often create detailed schedules of known and potential assets that are compiled from a variety of sources. Useful sources can include:

  • Bank statements - These can be useful to identify an individual’s sources of income and level, their spending habits, potential assets such as cryptocurrencies, inconsistencies with other sources of evidence and where further information is required;
  • Other financial documents such as tax returns, loan and credit applications or insurance policies to identify potential additional assets of bank accounts of interest. It is helpful to cross-reference to bank statements or other available evidence for example an individual may earn £40,000 but they insure a car worth £200,000;
  • Communications such as email data and interview transcripts can provide a wealth of additional information;
  • Associated companies or individuals including their financial statements and bank statements if available;
  • Third parties that have provided professional services to the individual(s) involved such as accountants, solicitors and insurers;
  • Publicly available information such as Companies House, Land Registry and the electoral register. This can show assets held or be linked to financial information; and
  • Social media may indicate locations, assets or individuals of interest.

Each matter is unique and the facts should be considered on a case-by-case basis in a manner that is objective, independent and robust. During an investigation we may encounter a range of complications, particularly where attempts have been made to hide assets, conceal information or manipulate records. Accordingly, we must maintain professional scepticism and work closely and collaboratively with legal teams, forensic technologists, corporate intelligence specialists and enforcement agencies.