Angela Barkhouse is “bright, tenacious, fearless and terrific” according to market sources. She is lauded for her “imaginative and innovative investigative strategies”.
Angela is a co-founder and managing director of Alchemy, a firm that uses proprietary and advanced technology combined with expertise in financial investigations to find and return assets. Angela has led high-profile and complex matters in bribery, corruption, malfeasance, conflicts of interest, embezzlement and stolen sovereign wealth, and has made cross-border asset recoveries for both onshore and offshore jurisdictions. She also provides independent expert advice to international government organisations in financial investigations, and contributes to policy papers and international dialogue on grand corruption and asset recovery.
What motivated you to specialise as a fraud investigations expert?
I was fortunate to have been working as the senior management accountant for a Big Six accounting firm when, owing to the finance office being moved, the executive partner gave me an opportunity to try something new, and I chose forensic accounting. In truth, I had been considering a move into financial investigations and asset recovery, or even law enforcement. I have always been interested in seeking justice for others, particularly where victims have suffered disproportionately as a result of the greed of others.
What do you enjoy most about practising on such a global level?
I enjoy meeting people from all over the world, broadening my horizons and being exposed to new ideas and business etiquette. Combining these experiences with my knowledge has really helped me to develop innovative solutions to a wide number of scenarios, and to become a much more rounded practitioner in a global business environment.
What is the most memorable case you have worked on to date?
I acted as an independent expert for UNDP to the Truth and Dignity Commission (IVD) in Tunisia. This was an analysis of the IVD’s investigation strategies for the corruption and abuse of human rights during the Ben Ali era. Being part of that was incredibly humbling; I will never forget it.
I particularly enjoy working on seemingly impossible cases, for example, an asset recovery case against an Indian billionaire who had claimed sudden bankruptcy to his creditors. Within six weeks, we identified multiple apartments in New York, a mansion in Florida, significant business interests in South Africa and previously unidentified companies and trusts in the BVI.
You have previously spoken about the link between human rights and corruption. What are the empirical connections between the two?
Corruption violates the right to respect, protect and fulfil human rights, as held in the two international human rights covenants. An example is child infant mortality, where a child has been denied access to immunisation programmes (owing to insufficient availability of the necessary drugs) as a result of a corrupt act (eg, the diversion of funds to buy such drugs), and where that denial of access leads to the death of the child. That act represents a clear violation of the child’s rights to health and to life.
I recently worked on a report, titled “Corruption: a Human Rights Assessment”, that empirically quantifed the impact of corruption on internationally protected human rights. Using the OHCHR’s human rights indicator framework, the report presented the comparative analysis of levels of corruption against selected social indicators and internationally protected human rights. Taking the example of child mortality above, our findings showed that there appears to be a “tipping point” whereby once a country reaches a certain level of corruption (ie, a CPI score of lower than 40), the risk of child death begins to increase significantly. Seen the other way, analysis suggests that small decreases in corruption in countries with a CPI score of between 30 and 40 can bring a significant improvement in child mortality rates.
How have you seen the role of third-party funding in litigation develop in the past few years?
When I came across litigation funding 10 years ago, it was not well understood. Since then, it has developed a reputation for facilitating justice, particularly for high-value claims where the cost of litigation might have prohibited a just result.
Awareness of litigation funding has increased, and it is often one of the first questions clients will ask. Clients often want to know if funding is available from the outset, not just for litigation or enforcement, but also for the preliminary investigation stage.
As more litigation funders seem to be entering the field, funding early investigations may be the next stage of development. If so, parties (and litigation funders) will need to be more careful than ever that they retain the best professionals with the skills, experience and ingenuity to identify and recover assets.
What do clients look for in an effective asset recovery expert?
To me, an asset recovery “expert” is someone who understands the workings of financial crime, money laundering and finance and corporate structures, and has a broad understanding of which strategy or legal remedy is best suited to a particular situation. For example, certain situations may call for letters rogatory or the use of bilateral treaties, while others may call for private civil action or arbitration in a financial dispute. Insolvency is another tool used in recovery, although recovering assets for the victims of fraud, can be vastly more complex than attempting to recover assets for a simple debt judgment, particularly where fraudsters have sought to subvert the ultimate destination of funds with the assistance of unethical facilitators.
It is critical to select the remedy with the greatest opportunity to bring in recoveries as quickly as possible. A genuine asset recovery practitioner will tailor advice to your unique situation, incorporating their broader knowledge and experience of asset recovery, not just their particular expertise in one area.
How do you see your practice developing over the next five years?
Our practice is new, but our knowledge comes from decades of experience between us. We are confident we will succeed and grow in the next five years. Our philosophy is “technology-driven, expert-led”. We believe that data-driven technology will change the face of global asset recovery, but that the intuitive investigative process, the flexibility and the adaptability of financial crime experts remains essential to critical thinking and litigation strategy. Our practice combines proprietary asset search platforms, data analytics and insight technology. We fuse those capabilities with our human intelligence, industry-leading expertise and experience.
What is the best piece of career advice you have received?
Be yourself; trust your experience; do not be afraid to voice an opinion; and have passion for what you do.
Angela Barkhouse “has a clear and incisive grasp of strategy, and her approach combines creative intelligence with relentless determination”, commend impressed sources.
Angela is a co-founder and managing director of Alchemy, a firm that finds and returns assets by combining leading-edge and proprietary technology with recognised expertise in data, financial investigations, and asset recovery.
Angela has led high-profile and complex matters in bribery, corruption, malfeasance, conflicts of interest and stolen sovereign wealth; and made cross-border asset recoveries for both onshore and offshore jurisdictions. She has acted as liquidator and controller over entities in the BVI and Cayman Islands to ensure asset preservation and enforce judgments on behalf of claimants. Angela also provides independent expert support to international government organisations and global financial institutions for anti-corruption and integrity investigations.