The CEO’s Ruminations

As I tucked into my first glass of champers on yet another long-haul flight to somewhere to do something hopefully important, I began to contemplate recent complaints from clients who have been the victims of “scams”.

To say I have assisted many clients battling against the most successful scams running on the planet may be a British euphemism.  If a scam has been perpetrated, I have had the sad occurrence to seek redress for the victim(s).

As an aside, whether any form of Nigerian wickedness (419 letter fraud, dating/romance, Western Union, etc) or modern cyber-phishing, I remain perplexed at the longevity and success of these deceptions. I think it fair to say my surprise requires some soul-searching by the victims and is well-beyond my ambit as a simple sleuth.

Nevertheless, I am more interested in addressing the emotional, financial and reputational issues that often rear their ugly heads when a client falls prey to this insiduous form of conduct. Homer, the Greek poet famous for penning The Iliad and The Odyssey, summed up my feelings on the subject when writing “Hateful to me as the gates of Hades is that man who hides one thing in his heart and speaks another.”

Given my disdain for these characters, I am positive you would expect I-OnAsia to attack with a passion these matters.

We roll up our sleeves and get dirty!  Legal, of course!  However, we take the position that to win against such adversaries often requires what one might call “aggressive” tactics.

Simply stated, we are ready, willing, able and dedicated both to preventative as well as curative action for the victims.

“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”  Benjamin Franklin

Ah, the uber-polymath of the 1700s, perhaps best known for his face adorning the USD100 note, was an uparalleled visionary.  I have no doubt he may have anticipated these issues, which are global in ethnicity and nationality, despite the modern state of Nigeria not being formed until the 19th century.

First, I think it useful to itemize some of the more popular and long-running scams in an effort to provide, free of charge, “an ounce of prevention”.  According to many non-government and government websites, the super-scams include, but certainly are not limited to, those detailed below.

  • Phishing (SMS version is smishing) is an attempt to obtain sensitive information like username, password, bank details, the details of staff in a position to transfer funds.
  • Nigerian letter frauds (419, which is the country code for Nigeria) combine the threat of impersonation fraud with a variation of an advance fee scheme in which a letter mailed, or e-mailed, from Nigeria offers the recipient the “opportunity” to share in a percentage of millions of dollars that the author, supposedly a government official, is trying to transfer illegally out of the country.
  • Commercial fraud often combines any one of these scams along with the stolen money being used (a) to buy real products from legitimate manufacturers, (b) products are then sold on to unknowing buyers and (c) the purchase monies is sent to the seller’s account and thereafter withdrawn in cash or transferred through some other mechanism to the fraudster (bitcoin?).
  • Malware is, as the name implies, is software that is intended to damage or disable computers and often is accidentally downloaded when an innocent employee clicks on an email sent from a seemingly reliable person who, in fact, is a fraudster.
  • Telemarketing fraud occurs when you send money to people you do not know personally or give personal or financial information to unknown callers.
  • Lottery fraud sees the victim being told that he has won a lottery, prize or sweepstakes and that money must be sent to cover the taxes or fees on the winnings. The victim may receive a check for part of the winnings and once the check is deposited and money is sent, the check bounces.
  • Romance/dating scammers spend their day trolling web sites and chat rooms for contact emails, and then send off thousands of fraudulent letters and emails awaiting the victim’s replies that result in no love, plenty of heartbreak and usually financial loss.
  • Social networking is when a cybercriminal accesses your social media accounts, and those of your close friends and family. Useful information for highly targeted pitches usually involving requests for money.
  • Tax scams involves a victim being contacted by someone claiming to be from a governmental agency saying that money is owed for taxes, and it must be paid immediately to avoid arrest, deportation or suspension of driver’s license/passport.

When I add “etc” to this list, I mean ETCETERA as the list is never-ending!

Second, now that you have an incomplete laundry list of potential scams, please defend yourself.  Why?  If not for any other reason, then how about the fact things are not going to get better!

One noted expert recently commented regarding identity theft via phishing scams that “Police don’t have time, the FBI won’t care unless it’s a lot of money or kids involved and then they are overwhelmed. The best you can do is put credit freeze and a hold on things and hold on tight. This is going to get worse.”

In Hong Kong, the Hong Kong Police recorded 653 cases of cybercrimes in 2005, which was the first year it began tracking such offences.  By 2016, the number of cases reached 5,939 in 2016 and resulted in HK$2.3 billion of losses to the victims!

Third, if you are the victim of a scam, you must act QUICKLY.  Once the money is sent, identity is stolen, etc (there goes that abbreviation again), you have a matter of hours to respond.  The longer your wait, the greater likelihood you will never see your money again, your identity will be irreversibly lost and the etc will become your first, middle and last name FOREVER!  Although we support law enforcement’s efforts and we know lawyers work hard to achieve their clients’ objectives, both parties are hampered by various important roadblocks that require time and are well-known to the fraudsters.  Sadly, time is of the essence and not on your side. We are faster!

Finally, is all hope lost?  As Martin Luther King Jr eloquently stated, albeit in a very different context, “We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.”  If we are immediately contacted, we have the global network, high-level contacts and clear, no roadblock-vision to attack the problem and sally forth in more than just a hopeful manner. The old saying “it is not what you know, but who you know” shines brightly in these situations.  Suffice it to say, we know a lot, but we know even more useful people.

Frightened?  You should be.  Having said that, I-OnAsia is a phone call away and we will act quicker than immediately…as we know the game.

In closing, I leave you to ponder the wisdom of The Buddha for a little more of that free,”ounce of prevention”:

“Believe nothing, no matter where you read it, or who said it, no matter if I have said it, unless it agrees with your own reason and your own common sense.”

The CEO’s Ruminations

As we were unwinding from the festivities surrounding Chinese New Year and refocusing on making (rather than spending) money, I stumbled upon an article highlighting 10 of the most ridiculous lawsuits in 2017 (https://www.uschamber.com/series/above-the-fold/here-are-the-top-10-most-ridiculous-lawsuits-2017).

Oooweebaby, humans are truly odd.

How about the lawsuit filed against Uber by a French fella, who used his wife’s phone for the service, which prompted that nasty little app to continue notifying her of his curious pick-ups and drop-offs. She filed for divorce.  He filed alleging Uber ruined his marriage, and he is seeking 45 million euros in damages for the pain caused to him.

I also enjoyed reading about the Yank who is suing Starbucks for the unpaid time between logging out from work until he locks up the store at closing.  A whopping four minutes each time.  Of course, the math begins to become compelling when you multiply those four minutes by days, months and years.  Nice bit of overtime, eh!?

The reason my mind started spinning while reading these tidbits of human absurdity was the fact each one of these plaintiffs and defendants probably used (or should have used) some form of litigation support services.  More importantly, I know the issues of our clients are more complex and the lawyers we assist understand the value we bring to the litigation team.

I am hopeful you will not be shocked to read such services form a large part of I-OnAsia’s work for clients.

Whether it is a nonsensical civil lawsuit or a more serious criminal prosecution, we lift up the skirts, so to speak, in an effort to support out clients’ positions in varying spots of bother.

Tinkle me, or more likely suggest my name to your lawyer, if you think you might need some litigation support.

“When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable,  must be the truth.” – Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes

The super-sleuth, albeit fictional, speaketh the truth.  Of course, the issue at hand is eliminating the impossible.  Given the whacky lawsuits I just summarized, one has to ponder if anything is impossible.

Litigation Support, basically, covers any activity the objective of which is to assist a lawyer to try a case.  How long is a piece of string?  Well…

Large-scale civil or criminal litigation requires lawyers, paralegals, accountants, plaintiffs, defendants and event private investigation firms to sift through an enormous amout of dead wood.

On an environmental note, I often wonder how many forests would be saved if people were just a touch more friendly or a little less nutty.  If you ever saw some of the warehouses of paper produced for only one case, you would need a crane to lift up your jaw from the floor.

I digress, as I often do, but the point is litigtation support services are essential to prepare for battle.  Eliminating the impossible requires often mundane and time-consuming work ranging from pulling civil/criminal/corporate records to conducting word searches of emails to checking club/school memberships to asset tracing to…well, I hope you get the picture.

Why hire I-OnAsia to handle such an important element of a lawsuit?

First, we do not charge the same sort of hourly fees meted out by law firms passing on costs of their education, rent and navigating the often murky waters of the river known as “the law”.  In 2016, Lord Neuberger, president of the supreme court of the United Kingdom, bemoaned the litigation burdens of excessive hourly rates among “city” firms that often exceeded GBP1,000 per hour.  Ouch!!!  Litigation is expensive.  The lawyers with whom we work understand this issue.  We work together with the legal eagles, and we complement their technical skills.  A good lawyer as well as a savvy client should consider cost-effective alternatives to achieve their objective.

Second, we specialize in eliminating the impossible to provide our clients with the truth in a cost and time-effective manner.  Such services include, but by the very nature of the beast are not limited to, the following:

  • data analytics involving designing and implementing databases for managing, sorting, indexing, abstracting and coordinating data produced in major litigation, particularly for trial;
  • detect and preserve evidence (metadata) in electronic media, including evidence sought to be destroyed;
  • retrieving information on opponents, whether natural persons or entities, through public records as part of background checks and fact finding;
  • identify and verify physical locations of real and personal property and, of likely greater importance, who owns the same;
  • recovery of assets;
  • identify known and unknown business affiliations that may prove useful;
  • identify and vet credentials of expert witnesses;
  • forensic accounting, including determining financial status of the adversary;
  • access global data sources to support or impeach “facts”;
  • learn locations of potential witnesses and interview the same;
  • obtain information to challenge statements made in depositions;
  • engage in a wide range of surveillance activities;
  • research social media sites; and
  • various investigations including infidelity and romantic interest, child custody, employment background, tenant screening, etc.
  • and….

Doing extensive homework takes time, effort and focus on the ultimate goal of winning.  The lawyers with whom we work know you should not be paying north of GBP1,000 per hour for this sort of work. In your interests, they refer the “grunt work” to I-OnAsia.

Third, the very nature of our team is to be skeptical.  We adhere to Arthur Conan Doyle’s truism that “There is nothing as deceptive as an obvious fact.”  Simply stated, when working for a client, we take the position that all obvious facts are nothing but well-dressed deceptions seeking a colonosocopy-like investigation.

Finally, we have the global network to ensure you engage subject matter experts. In the same manner you hire a lawyer to explain the law or an accountant to prepare your tax returns, we organize and, most importantly, manage the appropriate team of subject matter experts to handle the issues.

I think a Yank hack from the 1900s (Ambrose Bierce) summed up litigation quite nicely with the description that it is “a machine which you go into as a pig and come out of as a sausage”.

We do not really care if you are a pig (hmmm…), but we definitely will seek to help you to avoid being a sausage!!!

The CEO’s Ruminations

Happy Lunar New Year!  I wish you and yours all the best in in the Year of the Dog!!!

Honesty, loyalty, reliable partners and true friends are characteristics often associated with those born under this sign.  Hmmm…let’s put that to the test by considering several famous people born in Dog Years including George W. Bush (WMDs?), Bill Clinton (Monica?), Michael Jackson (oh my…), Cher (any true parts on that body?), The Donald (seriously?).

Well, dog-year people also are considered somewhat selfish, terribly stubborn and exceedingly eccentric.  That’s the ticket!

Ah, I digress….yet again…

As my dear readers know, my last tidbit focused on uncovering eavesdropping being visited upon our clients.  Remember Technical Surveillance Counter Measures (“TSCM”)?

Today, I am considering the flipside of the coin.  That is, perhaps you should consider some form of what I like to call “enhanced due diligence” or eavesdropping of your own, mais oui?

“It is only the enlightened ruler and the wise general who will use the highest intelligence of the army for the purposes of spying, and thereby they achieve great results.”  – Sun Tzu

Hey, if it worked for Sun Tzu around 544 BC before microwaves, lasers, telephones, the Internet, etc., then I have no doubt keeping one’s ears to the ground has merit.

As I alluded to during my last rumination, snooping on others is happening every minute of every day of the year.  Not to engage in the same would be to wake up every morning happily (did I hear naively?) humming the tune of “It’s a small world after all”.

Hold that thought…

Yes, it is a small world and it is getting smaller each day.  This is one of the reasons why people are seeking to obtain as much information as possible about their friends, wives, husbands, children, business adversaries, joint venture partners, fellow shareholders or board members.

I think one might call it “doing unto others before they do unto you”.  Please do not get me wrong…I believe availing oneself of TSCM is fundamental.

However, I also know employing preventative, active enhanced due diligence is essential to good corporate governance and peace of mind.

Consider:

  • You are entering into a new joint venture with a fella you just met at your “local” who is using as the contracting party a company incorporated in the British Virgin Islands. Credit checks, company searches and all the usual methods of due diligence must be pursued.  PERHAPS you might want to hire someone to meet by chance at the bar to chat with this new fella over a few gallons of ale…truth knows no better elicitor than alcohol?
  • Your daughter of tender years has been swept off her feet by a Don Juan more than twoscore her age. PERHAPS you might want to test his true intentions via the enticing advances of a stunning runway model…after all, the will to be a loyal fiance, nay husband, in the face of overwhelming temptation seems a fair test?
  • You are seeking to acquire an invention deemed essential to your company’s success. PERHAPS discreetly chatting with some of the seller’s key personnel to uncover a little more about the seller’s bottom line price might be useful?
  • You, unfortunately, find yourself engaged in fierce and expensive litigation. PERHAPS uncovering some damning cross-examination information, by any and all legal means available, might tilt the balance in your favour?
  • You seem to be losing every bid to your fiercest competitor despite your best efforts and what you consider to be your fair-minded conduct. PERHAPS you need to have a word with the potential clients (without them knowing it is you) to determine if your competitor is engaged in some anti-competitive, “not cricket” behaviour prohibited by the law?
  • You notice gross profit margins seem to be shrinking despite years of successful business with the suppliers providing you with the raw materials necessary to make your product. PERHAPS you need to look into the relationship(s) between key staff on both sides of the equation to uncover whether anyone is enjoying more than a few holidays in certain South Pacific islands with friendly banks?
  • You are reviewing simply the most amazing curriculum vitae of a potential new employee that conjures up thoughts of “too good to be true”. PERHAPS you should look beyond the ink and paper to unveil what really might be the stuff of which this super hero is made?

I-OnAsia pursues the facts with zeal. We can be very simple-minded folks, who focus on doing the basics very well.  We also can be very complicated and clever sleuths, who investigate all possibilities using every legal tool available.

Bottom line:  results are key, information is power and, well, “The key to good eavesdropping is not getting caught.” – Lemony Snicket, The Blank Book

I-OnAsia would be happy to assist our enlightened clients in uncovering the facts while aggressively and legally engaging in an important element of the fine “art of war” without getting caught!!!

The CEO’s Ruminations


Well I hope it’s all going full steam ahead for everyone in the first month of 2018 albeit with the Chinese new year fast approaching that will certainly slow down somewhat.

By the way, did I foresee in my last rumination Oprah possibly throwing her Polar Bear Chic hat (apparently her favorite in 2017) into the swamp for USA President in 2020!?

Or do I have access to the best surveillance available on the planet and picked up this tidbit of information before her universally acclaimed “wow” Golden Globes’ speech?

Or…

Ponder that one while I discuss one of the hottest services offered by I-OnAsia – technical surveillance counter-measures (“TSCM”).

The Donald obviously would benefit from our service. Frankly, I think just about anyone concerned with eavesdropping would benefit…but I am biased!

“Spying among friends is never acceptable.” – Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany

Oh, go on Chancellor Merkel, you know you do it as well.

Eavesdropping, snooping on, spying, bugging, taping or simply overhearing…call it what you like, it is happening every minute of every day of the year.

Whether imposed upon friends, wives, husbands, children, business adversaries, joint venture partners, fellow shareholders or board members…well, just about anybody…it is happening…a lot!!!

More importantly, I think it fair to say the people doing the spying are employing even more sophisticated toys to achieve their objectives.

Et voila, the people suffering the breach of privacy are now able to avail of TSCM, which is the original Yank abbreviation for the process of bug-sweeping or electronic counter surveillance. TSCM involves the continuous and systematic physical and electronic examination of a designated area by properly trained, qualified and equipped persons in an attempt to discover electronic eavesdropping devices, security hazards or security weaknesses.

A TSCM survey, which I-OnAsia offers clients at cost-effective rates, provides a professional evaluation of the designated area’s technical security and usually will consist of a meticulous visual, electronic, and physical examination.

Our staff attend training courses in the USA every year to ensure the highest standards of TSCM services are available to our clients. These courses, which lead to relevant internationally recognized certifications, include training in:

  • Basic facility concerns
  • Acoustic/microphone threats
  • Microwave threats
  • Laser threats
  • Infrared threats
  • Carrier current threats
  • Physical search procedures
  • Electronic search procedures
  • Sweep concepts
  • Telephone and Line testing procedures and equipment
  • Overview of and training with TSCM equipment, i.e. some James Bond-like names such as Advanced Near-field Detection Receiver and OSCOR Spectrum Analyzer
  • Capturing and analysing VoIP traffic

I believe employing TSCM is essential to good corporate governance, particularly for large public companies seeking to facilitate cost-effective and efficient management of resources to deliver long-term success for its stakeholders.

Imagine:

  • Walking into a negotiation to acquire an invention deemed essential to your company’s success and the other side already knows EXACTLY how much you are willing to pay?
  • Flipping to the business section of The Financial Times to discover your competitor has curiously employed EXACTLY the same strategy you had decided to implement for your corporate expansion?
  • Losing a large project because your competitor offers EXACTLY US$1 more than your sealed bid?
  • Wondering why a key employee resigned and joined another firm until discovering EXACTLY how much more he was offered, which slightly beat out your offer?
  • Being investigated by the stock exchange on which your shares are traded because a group of supposedly independent investors knew EXACTLY when to execute a buy order in advance of a not yet public announcement?
  • Beating up your trusted advisors because your husband knew EXACTLY how much you were willing to pay him to live happily ever after with his new model girlfriend?

The list is endless. The risks are endless.

Doing nothing while hoping for the best is simply not the way forward.

Give me a call for a complimentary risk assessment. My team will visit, have a quick look at the designated area/office, ask some questions and thereafter provide you with a proposal.

Oh, yes, while we are on the subject of un-invited listening to others, please do not forget you can only be on one side and we are the finders. We are not the planters!

The CEO’s Ruminations


‘Was the season to be, well, concerned, curious, frightened and a touch pissed off.

Bah humbug, you say?  Turn on the TV to watch some “fake news”, play with your Twitter feed to enjoy the non-stop, off-the-cuff commentary of The Donald, read a bit about Brexit or “The Rocket Man”, evaluate your portfolio against the backdrop of free money economic development or…I hope you got the picture.

Nevermind, the globe continues to spin and life sallies forth, perhaps with fear and loathing, but also oozing with enthusiastic human optimism and belief that tomorrow always will be better.

With that in mind, I turned my one finger-typing prowess to my keyboard targeting an issue that pits the age-old belief in “privacy and confidentiality” against the non-stop fight against crime or that matter just downright naughty behavior.

Ponder this one while recovering from the festivities and slipping back into the old office routine with your new year resolution shadowing you.

“Cheers to a new year and another chance for us to get it right.” – Ophray Winfrey

Did I just quote the so called Queen of TV Talk Shows?

Oh my, I definitely think it is happy hour somewhere as I clearly need a drink…or a dozen!!!

Does privacy and confidentiality trump legitimate, non-law enforcement inquiries into potential crime?

This question has been posed ever more frequently in recent rubber-chicken luncheons of regulators, law enforcement bodies and lawyers/accountants in relation to drug trafficking, terrorism, cyber-hacking, tax evasion, financial fraud and all manner of sophisticated white collar crime.

The answers have varied from yes to no to maybe and every permutation of the same that may exist between the white, black and gray proferred by the self-proclaimed geniuses who constantly debate the issue.

I encounter this Q&A every week, if not more often, when fielding inquiries from our clients who are facing the seemingly impenetrable wall off offshore confidentiality.

Offshore, of course, is improperly accorded mostly to small Caribbean and South Pacific jurisdictions that market and sell all types of perfectly legitimate corporate vehicles, trust relationships and other “structures” that assist global business people, high networth individuals and large multinationals to maximize their financial returns in a tax-effective, private and confidential manner.  Sadly, one rarely hears mention of the largest offshore jurisdiction, i.e. Delaware, in such conversations as, well, it enjoys the warm and cuddly protection of Uncle Sam and the Weapon of Mass Destruction, i.e. the US Dollar.  Alas, I digress…

Returning to the subject, I decided to take a peak at the issue in a more narrow context of the jurisdiction which seems to plague our clients the most.  That is the tiny, sun-drenched, sandy beach dominated, British Overseas Territory aptly named the British Virgin Islands or BVI as it is better known.

Sincere apologies to the BVI in advance, but it is what it is – our clients’ complaints largely focus on this hugely successful, and equally maligned, offshore jurisdiction.

The focus of such grievances usually shine a light on the presumed, unassailable confidentiality of BVI Business Companies (previously known as International Business Companies or IBCs).

No doubt, privacy and confidentiality are important selling points of BVI Business Companies.  In fact, the BVI Financial Services Commission, the financial services regulator in the territory, states in relevant part on its website that

“The establishment of the Commission also ensures a commitment by the BVI to play its part in the fight against cross border white collar crime while safeguarding the privacy and confidentiality of legitimate business transactions.” (bold letters added by me for emphasis)

You will notice “safeguarding…privacy and confidentiality” rubs shoulders with “fight against cross border white-collar crime” as though the concepts are comfortable bed-fellows.

Not so says the client seeking to determine “who is behind that BVI Business Company that just swallowed (while rudely burping) my entire retirement nest-egg?”  These sort of inquiries flood my desk as law enforcement fails to address the potential crime in a timely and effective manner.  I know they try, but success is usually a day late and a dollar short.

I know answering the question will be an uphill battle. I always inform our clients quite candidly that the hoped for pot of gold at the end of this hardly sparkling rainbow will not be easily obtained.  However, I-OnAsia has a team of skilled sleuths with decades of experience as formerly licensed persons in virtually every offshore jurisdiction on the planet including the BVI.

Simply stated, we know how to approach the issue of slowly, albeit purposefully, chipping away at the confidential veneer of the BVI Business Company.  No, we do not necessarily rely upon whistleblowers of licensed firms in the jurisdictions, albeit we cautiously welcome such offers.

Our multi-pronged strategy starts with obtaining information via legitimate searches in the BVI that uncover the essential elements of the relevant Business Company’s incorporation, such as the licensed Registered Agent.  In some instances, the identities of the Directors and Members of the BVI Business Company may be available.  If not, then we always can petition local authorities to access such information from the Company Registry.

We, of course, would love to access the non-public search platform called BOSS (Beneficial Ownership Secure Search System), but such privileges, at least to date, are the sole province of the BVI authorities such as the previously referenced Financial Services Commission.

Regardless, the foundation is set for our assault as we use this information, along with our client’s complaints, to encourage assistance from relevant regulatory bodies, law enforcement, licensed persons, media (witness the impact of the Panama Papers and Paradise Papers), banks and any other organization willing to grant us an audience to press forward with our legitimate inquiries.

This is only the beginning of our efforts to hold the BVI Financial Services Commission, its licensed practitioners and investigative agencies in the Territory (as well as the United Kingdom authories with significant influence if not ultimate oversight) to the promise of ensuring “privacy and confidentiality” does NOT trump the lawful “fight against cross border white-collar crime”.

Or, for that matter, any criminal or even immoral conduct improperly inflicted upon our clients.

I believe the unrelenting effort and surprising victory of David over Goliath is not simply the stuff of Biblical lore.

Such unrelenting effort is I-OnAsia’s commitment to our clients facing seemingly unbeatable offshore privacy and confidentiality…let us be your David!!!

Happy New Year !!!