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How do you stop the golden egg rolling away?

15 April 2019. Published by Davina Given, Partner and Emma West, Senior Associate

A fraudster may hatch a plan to hide their prize asset (the golden egg) when they learn that court proceedings are likely to be started by their victim (the egg-hunter).

Without knowing exactly where the golden egg is, the egg-hunter can obtain a freezing order to dampen any fraudster's enthusiasm more quickly than the April showers. A freezing order usually prevents the suspected fraudster from having "free-range" to deal with their assets up to the value of the claim, whether just in England or worldwide. As they may have tried to obfuscate the true ownership of their assets, the assets of third parties can also be frozen if there is reason to suppose these in fact belong to the respondent.

Those who breach a freezing order and individuals who assist them could be very un-clucky. They could be liable for contempt of court and sent to prison.

Whilst a freezing order can effectively secure assets, obtaining one is a lot trickier than choosing from a box of chocolates. An egg-hunter needs to act quickly to avoid delay scrambling her plan to secure the assets, but must still be able to show the court both a good arguable case against the suspected fraudster in England and that there is a risk they will dissipate their assets. As an injunction is usually obtained without telling the other side first, an egg-hunter can't present their case sunny-side up and must disclose to the court the runnier aspects of their position.

A hard toffee may be left in the bottom of the box if it later turns out that the order should not have been given and has caused the respondent loss. Before a freezing order is made an egg-hunter usually has to agree to compensate the respondent (and third parties) for any unnecessary losses suffered.