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Thought Leaders

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Yves Klein

Yves Klein

Monfrini Bitton KleinPlace du Molard 3GenevaSwitzerlandCH-1204
Watch interview with Yves Klein

Thought Leader

WWL Ranking: Global Elite Thought Leader

Questions & Answers

Yves Klein is an international asset recovery lawyer and a senior partner at Monfrini Bitton Klein, Geneva. His main activity for the past 20 years has consisted in litigating and coordinating transnational asset recovery proceedings before civil, criminal and bankruptcy courts on behalf of victims of economic crimes. Yves Klein is former chair of the IBA asset recovery subcommittee (anti-corruption committee) and is the Swiss representative of ICC FraudNet, the world’s leading asset recovery network.

Why did you decide to specialise in asset recovery?

From the start of my career, I was interested in working on behalf of victims of crime. Over the years, I increasingly focused on cross-border economic crimes. By chance, this period (the early 2000s) corresponded with the birth of the cross-border asset recovery practice.

What excites you the most about asset recovery cases?

The thrill of the chase. The creativity that each new case requires beating new money laundering techniques. The necessity of adopting innovative approaches towards existing legal provisions to give them the maximum effect for our clients. The pleasure of devising international asset recovery strategies and implementing them with an international team of competent and like-minded professionals.

How has your role changed since you started practising?

At the beginning of my career, I mostly dedicated myself to courtroom work. My role now is to devise and adapt the cross-border asset recovery strategy, and to set up and coordinate the international team.

What do clients look for in a top asset recovery specialist?

Someone who will find the solutions and obtain the results that others cannot, through experience, creativity, knowledge of the cross-border asset recovery toolbox and access to the best specialists around the world.

What aspect of recovering criminal proceeds is the most challenging?

Circulating information among team members and making sure that the defence cannot exploit contradictions between the various briefs that are filed. Navigating the various legal systems is not the challenge – it is where most of the fun comes from.

Which international search and recovery strategies do you think are most effective at returning assets?

Each case needs its own strategy. One common feature, though, is that the beginning of the case is crucial, as assets and evidence need to be secured to ensure a successful recovery. It is therefore essential to design a cross-border approach from the start and hit hardest at the beginning. While assets are important (and will help to obtain third-party funding, if necessary), the asset recovery strategy must also be devised in terms of claims, so as to achieve redress through the award of damages against facilitators.

As a partner, what are your priorities for the firm’s development over the next five years?

Developing the skills of the new generation, promoting a culture of permanent innovation and continuing to develop the international network of the firm.

Your career has been very distinguished so far. What would you like to achieve that you have
not already?

To live up to the reputation I may have.

WWL Ranking: Thought Leader

WWL says

Yves Klein is a top-notch lawyer in the asset recovery space and wins praise from sources who note that “he is known to be excellent” in the field.

Questions & Answers

Yves Klein is a Swiss asset recovery lawyer and partner of Monfrini Bitton Klein, a Geneva-based litigation-only law firm focusing on cross-border asset recovery, anti-corruption investigations, business crime and offshore litigation. Admitted to the Geneva Bar in 1995, Yves Klein holds a law degree from the University of Geneva and a diploma of higher studies in international law from the Graduate Institute, Geneva. He speaks French, English, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian and German.

WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO PURSUE A LEGAL CAREER?

I did not consider immediately becoming a litigator. What attracted me at first in the legal career was the problem-solving approach to a human science.

WHAT MOTIVATED YOU TO START YOUR OWN FIRM?

In 2017, Enrico Monfrini, David Bitton, James Bouzaglo and I decided to relaunch the law firm that had been created by Enrico Monfrini in 1978, as an internationally oriented business practice, into a litigation-only firm focusing on all aspects of business crime-related cross-border proceedings, in order to take advantage of the core strengths of the firm and its members.

WHAT CHALLENGES DID YOU FACE WHEN SETTING UP MONFRINI BITTON KLEIN?

It was a risk to focus on a relatively narrow segment of legal practice, but it paid off, as in less than two years our brand has become very well known locally and internationally, beyond the individual reputations of its members.

LOOKING BACK OVER YOUR CAREER, WHAT IS THE MOST MEMORABLE CASE YOU HAVE BEEN A PART OF?

It definitely is the Nigeria v Abacha case, which was started by Enrico Monfrini in 1999 while I was still an associate in his firm. The mandate started with Switzerland and was expanded within a year into representing Nigeria and coordinating asset recovery proceedings in 10 more jurisdictions. The amount of work and problems to solve was massive! This is a case that in many ways defined the representation of sovereigns in asset recovery cases and had a major influence over my career. Beyond the great human adventure, the case launched me as an asset recovery lawyer and allowed me to expand my practice to commercial and financial fraud, and enforcement of foreign judgments and arbitral awards.

IN JANUARY 2019, AMENDMENTS WERE MADE TO SWISS CROSS-BORDER INSOLVENCY LAW. DO YOU EXPECT THIS AMENDMENT TO AFFECT YOUR PRACTICE?

The Swiss cross-border insolvency regime in force until the end of 2018 systematically required the opening of a Swiss ancillary bankruptcy, with the appointment of a local liquidator whose role was to liquidate Swiss assets and claims while safeguarding the interests of Swiss privileged creditors, even if there were no such creditors. As a consequence, there were less than 60 recognitions of foreign insolvencies in Switzerland between 2010 and 2016 – less than 10 per year – because foreign insolvency practitioners saw Switzerland as a cumbersome, slow and costly jurisdiction. From 2019, the Swiss ancillary bankruptcy may be waived and the foreign officeholders may be authorised to directly act in Switzerland. As a consequence, we expect the number of Swiss cross-border insolvency proceedings to rapidly expand.

WORKING IN ASSET RECOVERY FROM SWITZERLAND INVOLVES COLLABORATING WITH LAWYERS, EXPERTS, AND COLLEAGUES AROUND THE WORLD. HOW DO YOU WORK TOGETHER EFFECTIVELY AS A TEAM?

Switzerland, in particular Geneva, is a hub of asset recovery litigation because of its unique position. First, it remains the main offshore banking centre in the world, with more than one-quarter, or US$2.2 trillion, of the world’s foreign assets under management, to which one should add the professional service providers, such as trustees, directors and family offices. Second, it has become the world’s number-one commodity trading hub, as its global market share is estimated at 35 per cent for oil, 60 per cent for metals and 50 per cent

for sugar and cereals respectively. As a consequence of the presence of assets or evidence in Switzerland, a very large share of cross-border asset recovery proceedings has a Swiss component. This means receiving instructions from and giving instructions to asset recovery professionals around the world. The crucial elements of successfully working as a team are: competence, trust and mutual respect. While working within an existing network such as ICC FraudNet is a great advantage, we very often work with ad hoc teams where the keys to success are: to always use the best professional for the job; to trust the local professionals’ experience; to take into account the particularities and needs of parallel proceedings in very different legal systems; and to circulate information and coordinate proceedings.

HOW DO YOU SEE YOUR PRACTICE DEVELOPING OVER THE NEXT FIVE YEARS?

While Enrico Monfrini represents the first generation, and James Bouzaglo, David Bitton and I are the second generation, I expect the next generation to greatly contribute to the firm’s success and reputation. We are favoured by effective Swiss legal remedies for parties harmed by economic crime, through a combination of criminal, mutual assistance, civil and insolvency tools, especially the commitment of Swiss law enforcement authorities to assist such victims when they participate as plaintiffs in criminal proceedings. I am confident that the members of our team will continue to develop creative solutions to achieve redress for our clients.

WHAT IS THE BEST PIECE OF ADVICE YOU HAVE EVER RECEIVED?

The most important quality in a lawyer is not skill or intelligence, it is tenacity – as noted by the late Alexandre Hauchmann, who was a partner in our firm until 2000.

WWL Ranking: Thought Leader

Global Leader

Asset Recovery 2019

Professional Biography

WWL Ranking: Global Elite Thought Leader

WWL says

Yves Klein is "fabulous at asset recovery" laud sources who single him out as one of the heavyweights of global asset recovery practice.

Biography

Yves Klein is a founding partner of Monfrini Bitton Klein, a conflict-free litigation boutique based in Geneva. The firm focuses on asset recovery, business crime defence, anti-corruption investigations, offshore disputes, international judicial assistance, cross-border insolvency, enforcement of foreign judgments and arbitration awards, and the tracing of matrimonial and estate assets.

Mr Klein’s main activity is litigating and coordinating transnational asset recovery proceedings on behalf of victims of economic crimes, or parties seeking to enforce their claims against assets concealed in Switzerland or abroad.

He develops strategies for the international search for and recovery of assets, and coordinates cross-border proceedings. He represents his clients – be they states, liquidators of foreign bankruptcy estates, corporations or individuals – before civil, criminal and bankruptcy courts, in order to recover the proceeds of crimes and to obtain damages from perpetrators and facilitators.

Since 1999, Mr Klein has, together with his partner Enrico Monfrini, conducted groundbreaking corruption recovery proceedings in the case of Nigeria v Abacha, where more than US$2 billion has been recovered in 10 jurisdictions. For the past 20 years, Mr Klein has also been retained as Swiss counsel in several other corruption recovery cases, notably Brazil v Dos Santos NettoHaiti v DuvalierTunisia v Ben Ali and Guinea v Steinmetz.

As chair of the International Bar Association’s asset recovery subcommittee (anti-corruption committee), Mr Klein has established institutional relationships with the World Bank, the OECD Working Group on Bribery, and anti-corruption law enforcement officials in view of developing best practices regarding the use of civil asset recovery tools in parallel with criminal proceedings.

Mr Klein has also been active in representing bankruptcy estates of foreign banks or publicly traded companies. He has recovered tens of millions of dollars for their depositors, investors and creditors, prominently in the context of Ponzi schemes. He notably represents in Switzerland the bank insolvencies of Stanford International Bank Ltd (Antigua), Banco Santos SA (Brazil) and Banco Turco Romana SA (Romania).

He has obtained the recognition of foreign judgments and arbitral awards for amounts in excess of US$100 million and has successfully recovered the assets that defendants concealed in Switzerland or abroad.

Mr Klein is the Swiss representative of ICC FraudNet, the leading global legal network for asset recovery, present in more than 70 countries. Since 2013 he has been recognised by WWL as one of the world’s most highly regarded individuals in asset recovery, and is recognised by Chambers for his asset recovery activity.

He has published on asset tracing and recovery, anti-corruption, and recognition of foreign judgments and arbitral awards since 1996, and regularly presents on these matters at international conferences.

Admitted to the Geneva Bar in 1995, Mr Klein holds a law degree from the University of Geneva (1989) and a diploma of higher studies in international law from the Graduate Institute of International Studies of Geneva (1993).

He speaks fluent French, English, Portuguese, Spanish and Italian, and some German.

Litigation 2018

Professional Biography

WWL Ranking: Recommended

WWL says

With more than 20 years' experience, Yves Klein is well recognised for his excellent work in international asset recovery matters.

Biography

Yves Klein is a founding partner of Monfrini Bitton Klein, a conflict-free litigation boutique based in Geneva. The firm focuses on asset recovery, business crime defence, anti-corruption investigations, offshore disputes, international judicial assistance, cross-border insolvency, enforcement of foreign judgments and arbitration awards, and the tracing of matrimonial and estate assets.

Mr Klein’s main activity is litigating and coordinating transnational asset recovery proceedings on behalf of victims of economic crimes, or parties seeking to enforce their claims against assets concealed in Switzerland or abroad.

He develops strategies for the international search for and recovery of assets, and coordinates cross-border proceedings. He represents his clients – be they states, liquidators of foreign bankruptcy estates, corporations or individuals – before civil, criminal and bankruptcy courts, in order to recover the proceeds of crimes and to obtain damages from perpetrators and facilitators.

As chair of the International Bar Association’s asset recovery subcommittee (anti-corruption committee), Mr Klein has established institutional relationships with the World Bank, the OECD Working Group on Bribery, and anti-corruption law enforcement officials in view of developing best practices regarding the use of civil asset recovery tools in parallel with criminal proceedings.

Mr Klein is the Swiss representative of ICC FraudNet, the leading global legal network for asset recovery, present in more than 70 countries. Since 2013 he has been recognised by WWL as one of the world’s most highly regarded individuals in asset recovery, and is recognised by Chambers for his asset recovery activity.

He has published on asset tracing and recovery, anti-corruption, and recognition of foreign judgments and arbitral awards since 1996, and regularly presents on these matters at international conferences.

National Leader

Switzerland - Asset Recovery

Professional Biography

WWL Ranking: Recommended

WWL says

Yves Klein is a top-notch lawyer in the asset recovery space and wins praise from sources who note that "he is one of those known to be excellent" in the field.

Biography

Yves Klein is a founding partner of Monfrini Bitton Klein, a conflict-free litigation boutique based in Geneva. The firm focuses on asset recovery, business crime defence, anti-corruption investigations, offshore disputes, international judicial assistance, cross-border insolvency, enforcement of foreign judgments and arbitration awards, and the tracing of matrimonial and estate assets.

Mr Klein’s main activity is litigating and coordinating transnational asset recovery proceedings on behalf of victims of economic crimes, or parties seeking to enforce their claims against assets concealed in Switzerland or abroad.

He develops strategies for the international search for and recovery of assets, and coordinates cross-border proceedings. He represents his clients – be they states, liquidators of foreign bankruptcy estates, corporations or individuals – before civil, criminal and bankruptcy courts, in order to recover the proceeds of crimes and to obtain damages from perpetrators and facilitators.

As chair of the International Bar Association’s asset recovery subcommittee (anti-corruption committee), Mr Klein has established institutional relationships with the World Bank, the OECD Working Group on Bribery, and anti-corruption law enforcement officials in view of developing best practices regarding the use of civil asset recovery tools in parallel with criminal proceedings.

Mr Klein is the Swiss representative of ICC FraudNet, the leading global legal network for asset recovery, present in more than 70 countries. Since 2013 he has been recognised by WWL as one of the world’s most highly regarded individuals in asset recovery, and is recognised by Chambers for his asset recovery activity.

He has published on asset tracing and recovery, anti-corruption, and recognition of foreign judgments and arbitral awards since 1996, and regularly presents on these matters at international conferences.

Switzerland - Litigation

Professional Biography

WWL Ranking: Recommended

WWL says

Yves Klein is a disputes specialist commended by market sources for his top-tier work when it comes to financial crime and investigations proceedings.

Biography

Yves Klein is a founding partner of Monfrini Bitton Klein, a conflict-free litigation boutique based in Geneva. The firm focuses on asset recovery, business crime defence, anti-corruption investigations, offshore disputes, international judicial assistance, cross-border insolvency, enforcement of foreign judgments and arbitration awards, and the tracing of matrimonial and estate assets.

Mr Klein’s main activity is litigating and coordinating transnational asset recovery proceedings on behalf of victims of economic crimes, or parties seeking to enforce their claims against assets concealed in Switzerland or abroad.

He develops strategies for the international search for and recovery of assets, and coordinates cross-border proceedings. He represents his clients – be they states, liquidators of foreign bankruptcy estates, corporations or individuals – before civil, criminal and bankruptcy courts, in order to recover the proceeds of crimes and to obtain damages from perpetrators and facilitators.

As chair of the International Bar Association’s asset recovery subcommittee (anti-corruption committee), Mr Klein has established institutional relationships with the World Bank, the OECD Working Group on Bribery, and anti-corruption law enforcement officials in view of developing best practices regarding the use of civil asset recovery tools in parallel with criminal proceedings.

Mr Klein is the Swiss representative of ICC FraudNet, the leading global legal network for asset recovery, present in more than 70 countries. Since 2013 he has been recognised by WWL as one of the world’s most highly regarded individuals in asset recovery, and is recognised by Chambers for his asset recovery activity.

He has published on asset tracing and recovery, anti-corruption, and recognition of foreign judgments and arbitral awards since 1996, and regularly presents on these matters at international conferences.

Awards won by Yves Klein

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