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Spain’s richest woman among victims of Madoff scam

Published on December 17, 2008

MADRID – Spanish businesswoman Alicia Koplowitz, ranked by Forbes as the country's richest woman, is among the high-profile victims of the mammoth 50-billion-dollar (37.4-billion-euro) fraud allegedly carried out by Wall Street heavyweight Bernard Madoff, a report said Tuesday.

The 56-year-old Spanish billionaire risks losing EUR 10 million which she invested in Madoff products through her investment vehicle Omega Capital, the Europa Press news agency reported, citing market sources.

An order to divest from the Madoff products had been issued in September but it had not been carried out by the time Madoff was arrested last week.

Koplowitz has a net worth of USD 5.2 billion, making her Spain’s third richest person, according to Forbes.

She and her older sister Esther jointly ran builder Fomento de Construcciones y Contratas between 1989 and 1997 after inheriting the company from their late father.

Koplowitz sold her share of the firm to her sister in 1997 for USD 800 million and then built up her fortune through investments in real estate in Europe and the United States as well as in financial markets.

She is advised by Oscar Fanjul, former chief executive of Spanish oil and gas company Repsol, who sits on boards of such companies as the London Stock Exchange and The Marsh & McLennan Companies, according to Forbes.

A divorced mother of three, Koplowitz has been linked romantically with the Duque de Huescar, heir to the Spanish aristocratic house of Alba.

Madoff has allegedly confessed to defrauding investors of some USD 50 billion in a scam that collapsed after clients asked for their money back due to the global financial crisis.

US authorities allege that Madoff delivered consistently strong returns to clients by secretly using the principal investment from new investors for payments to other investors in what is known as a "pyramid fraud".

The scheme apparently worked as long as Madoff could attract new investors but seems to have unraveled when some of his clients asked to withdraw their investment – only to discover that his seemingly brimming coffers were empty.

[AFP / Expatica]