Disgraced former financier Bernie Madoff dies in prison aged 82

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Disgraced former financier Bernie Madoff dies in prison aged 82

Madoff was serving a 150-year sentence for swindling clients out of billions of dollars

Michael Daventry is foreign editor of Jewish News

Bernard Madoff (Wikipedia/U.S. Department of Justice)
Bernard Madoff (Wikipedia/U.S. Department of Justice)

The financier Bernie Madoff, who admitted orchestrating a massive investment fraud scheme that swindled clients out of billions of dollars, has died in prison aged 82.

Madoff, who was serving a 150-year jail sentence, had been suffering from chronic kidney failure.

For decades he enjoyed a reputation as a self-made financial genius with the ability to defy falls in the stock market.

But his investment advice business was exposed over a decade ago as a Ponzi scheme, which pays profits to earlier investors with the money taken from newer investors.

The fraud he admitted to have engineered cost as much as $64.8 billion, with celebrities, pension funds and charities among those affected.

Many victims were in the US Jewish community.

They included Elie Wiesel, the Holocaust survivor whose foundation invested in the scheme and lost $15 million.

“We thought he was God. We trusted everything in his hands,” Wiesel said in 2009, admitting he had been taken in by “a myth that [Madoff] created around him that everything was so special, so unique, that it had to be secret.”

Born in 1938 in a lower-middle-class Jewish neighbourhood of Queens, New York, Madoff rose to become one of the most influential figures on the Nasdaq stock exchange.

The fraud was exposed by his sons in 2008, who were not part of the scheme.

He became so hated a figure that he eventually had to wear a bulletproof vest to court hearings.

Madoff pleaded guilty in March 2009 to securities fraud and other charges, saying he was “deeply sorry and ashamed”.

But successive judges refused to release him on compassionate leave as his health began to fail.

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