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The trustee seeking restitution for victims of Wall Street fraud king Bernard Madoff filed a new claim Tuesday against Swiss bank UBS for 555 million dollars, amid a flurry of legal activity in the case.
The trustee charged with recouping Madoff's assets, Irving Picard, said he was now seeking a total of 2.5 billion dollars from UBS, with an additional 26 counts of fraud and misconduct for its role in the giant Ponzi scheme.
Picard originally filed the claim November 24 and added to those allegations against UBS "for helping deposit and channel money to Madoff," according to a statement from the trustee.
The administrator filed a separate lawsuit against the owners of the New York Mets baseball club, including Fred Wilpon, his son Jeff and other members of their family in an effort to take back profits earned from the fraud.
An additional complaint was filed for unspecified damages against Tremont Group, a multibillion-dollar money-management company and operators of the second-largest Madoff "feeder fund" group.
Also named as defendants in the suit are Oppenheimer Acquisition Corp., which acquired Tremont Group in 2001, and Oppenheimer's parent corporations MassMutual Holding LLC.
"Tremont blindly relied upon Madoff to drive the funds' returns and, more importantly, Tremont's profits," said Picard. "The returns provided by Madoff helped Tremont grow into a large source of funds" for the Madoff investment scheme.
The suit said Tremont failed to conduct reasonable analysis of the Madoff investments, which were purported to be bringing in handsome returns despite troubles in financial markets.
The new claims came as the family of an old friend of Madoff agreed to pay 625 million dollars to settle allegations of involvement in the scheme. The family of Carl Shapiro, who is 97 years old and in ailing health, will pay 550 million dollars to Picard's fund while the remaining 75 million dollars will go to the US government.
Shapiro had held accounts and done business with Madoff since 1961, investing hundreds of millions of dollars and withdrawing hundreds of millions more, according to documents filed to a New York court.
Madoff, who touted himself as one of New York's most successful money managers, was arrested in early December 2008 for running a pyramid scheme. He was sentenced in June 2009 to 150 years in prison.
Madoff's victims, including charities, major banks, Hollywood moguls and savvy financial players, handed him tens of billions of dollars over more than two decades.
The crime rocked Wall Street, where Madoff was a pillar of the New York and Florida Jewish communities.
Madoff's right hand man, Frank DiPascali, and his accountant, David Friehling, have since pleaded guilty in an investigation that has yet to fully unravel the crime or compensate the approximately 16,000 direct victims.
Even the amount of money stolen remains elusive: Madoff originally claimed to have been managing 65 billion dollars, but in October the court-appointed liquidator said the real bottom line was 21.2 billion dollars.
© 2010 AFP
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