Kohn wins lawsuit over Madoff Ponzi-scheme losses in Europe

An undated handout photo obtained on December 14, 2010 shows Austrian banker Sonja Kohn (right) posing with an unidentified man during a visit at the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna. — AFP pic
An undated handout photo obtained on December 14, 2010 shows Austrian banker Sonja Kohn (right) posing with an unidentified man during a visit at the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna. — AFP pic

LONDON, Oct 18 — Former Bank Medici AG chairwoman Sonja Kohn and previous directors of Bernard Madoff’s European operations don’t owe anything to the liquidators seeking to recoup losses to repay the convicted conman’s victims.

Judge Andrew Popplewell dismissed a lawsuit today filed by liquidators of Madoff Securities International Ltd., based in London. They were seeking to recover about US$50 million (RM158 million), including payments for a luxury yacht and an Aston Martin sports car.

Kohn and former SG Warburg executive Stephen Raven, both long-time associates of Madoff, also gave evidence in the case against them, which ended in July. Lawyers for both Kohn and Raven said they welcome today’s ruling in separate e-mailed statements.

“I cannot forbear from recording the commendable dignity and restraint which I have observed in each of” the defendants in the trial, Popplewell said in the ruling. “Madoff’s fraud itself blighted their lives and tainted their good names simply by association, quite apart from the financial losses suffered by some from investments in the Ponzi scheme.”

Madoff, 75, is serving a 150-year sentence for what prosecutors said was the biggest Ponzi scheme in US history. Liquidators of his companies have sued banks, feeder funds, and Madoff’s employees to recover some of the US$17 billion lost by victims.

‘Extremely disappointed’

Madoff’s European operations were owned almost exclusively by Madoff and served as his proprietary trading unit. More than US$910 million was transferred between the London unit and Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities LLC in New York from the time of the office’s founding in 1983 until firm’s collapse in December 2008, the liquidators said when they filed the lawsuit in 2010.

“We are obviously extremely disappointed with the judgment handed down today as claims made against the defendants were serious and there was undoubtedly a case to answer,” Simon Rothschild, a spokesman for Grant Thornton LLP, the liquidators winding down Madoff’s UK unit, said in an e-mailed statement.

The case is: Madoff Securities International Ltd. v. Raven, Case no. 10-1468, High Court of Justice, Queen’s Bench Division. — Bloomberg

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