Trust law is a multifaceted domain, and fraudulent transfers can be an important issue. These transfers can jeopardize the core purpose of trusts, which are instituted to secure assets and ensure their proper management and distribution.

Understanding Fraudulent Transfers

a gavel and fraudulent transfer cases

Fraudulent transfers involve the deliberate relocation of assets into a trust to escape creditors or other financial responsibilities. Such maneuvers can result in grave legal repercussions for both the individual initiating the transfer and the trust itself. The timing of these transfers is crucial, as assets relocated just before or after legal complications are considered especially suspicious.

Cook Islands Perspective

The Cook Islands, renowned for its formidable asset protection regulations, enacted the International Trusts Act of 1984. This legislation permits the establishment of international trusts that cater to both estate planning and asset protection. Over the years, the act has undergone several amendments, primarily to bolster its asset protection clauses.

A distinctive aspect of the Cook Islands Trusts Act is its approach to fraudulent transfers. For a creditor to establish a fraudulent transfer occurred, they must conclusively prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the trust was set up with fraudulent intent. This evidentiary threshold is considerably higher than the “preponderance of the evidence” standard prevalent in the U.S. Furthermore, even if such intent is established, the trust isn’t automatically labeled as fraudulent. The Act outlines specific conditions under which a trust cannot be deemed fraudulent.

Case Studies

a person looking at case studies

  • Elena and Dmitry Rybolovlev: Often referred to as the “most expensive divorce in history,” Dmitry’s assets, valued at nearly $8 billion, were securely held in a Cook Islands Trust. Although a Swiss court decreed Dmitry should relinquish half of his assets to Elena, the protective measures of the Cook Islands Trust led to the reversal of this judgment in Geneva.
  • Sarah Pursglove and Robert Oesterlund: Contrasting the Rybolovlev scenario, Pursglove was more successful in negotiating a settlement. On the day Pursglove uncovered Oesterlund’s extramarital affair, he shifted $45 million to the trust. This immediate action gave strong evidence of a possible fraudulent transfer, prompting Oesterlund to settle.


The integrity and protection of trusts are of utmost importance. While the Cook Islands boasts one of the most secure trust jurisdictions worldwide, comprehending the ramifications of fraudulent transfers is vital. To maximize the advantages of trusts and shield assets from potential legal disputes, assets must be transferred with genuine intent and adequate timing.