Sun, Dec 19, 2010 - Page 7 News List

Estate of Madoff’s billionaire friend to return Ponzi cash

THE GUARDIAN, LONDON

The estate of one of fraud king Bernard Madoff’s closest friends announced a US$7.2 billion settlement with lawyers representing victims of the fraud on Friday.

Billionaire Jeffry Picower was one of several Madoff investors who were initially viewed as victims of the fraud but were later revealed to have been major beneficiaries of the scam. Picower and Madoff often spent the weekend together and had been close for 20 years.

The Florida-based philanthropist made his fortune leading buyouts of healthcare and technology firms. According to Irving Picard, the trustee appointed to recover money for Madoff’s victims, Picower made US$7.2 billion from his Madoff investment. Following months of negotiations Picower’s widow, Barbara, is believed to have reached an agreement with Picard to return the funds to Madoff’s victims.

Picower was found dead in the swimming pool of his Palm Beach, Florida home last year. The billionaire had been in poor health and suffered from Parkinson’s and heart-related health issues, family spokeswoman Marcia Horowitz said.

The settlement is the largest related to the Ponzi scheme, and quadruples the amount of money recovered for victims to date. The money brings the amount of funds recovered by Picard to about US$10 billion. Picard has estimated that Madoff victims lost US$20 billion in the fraud.

This month, the family of Carl Shapiro, another old friend of Madoff’s, agreed to pay Picard US$625 million in settlement. Over recent weeks the trustee has filed suits against a host of people and firms he says benefited from the fraud including Citigroup, HSBC and JPMorgan Chase.

Madoff is currently serving a 150-year sentence after pleading guilty to carrying out a decades-long fraud scheme.

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