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GUILTY.. THE GREATEST CONMAN IN HISTORY OF THE WORLD; pounds 36bn swindler Madoff may face 150yrs jail.

Byline: BY ANTON ANTONOWICZ in New York

IT was the moment conman Bernard Madoff always knew would arrive during the years he was fleecing investors out of billions of dollars.

Yesterday, angry victims packed a court as he was told he would probably spend the rest of his life in jail after he admitted carrying out history's biggest fraud.

The 70-year-old last night swapped his luxury Manhattan apartment for a cell as he was remanded in custody.

He apologised for conning clients out of pounds 36billion with a Ponzi scheme - a swindle that repays investors with cash from other customers.

Madoff told a New York court: "I am so deeply ashamed of my crimes and sorry.

"As the years went by, I realised my risk, and this day would inevitably come.

"I cannot adequately express how sorry I am for what I have done."

Madoff said he had wanted to stop the scam in its early days but found it "impossible" after getting carried away. He added: "I believed it would end shortly and I would be able to extricate myself and my clients from the scheme."

But the disgraced financier's customers were furious he was allowed to plead guilty to 11 charges.

They wanted Madoff to go to trial so the full story of his shameful actions would be made public and he would be grilled on where the missing cash is.

Despite the objections, Judge Denny Chin allowed the guilty plea.

Under his scheme - named after 20s US-based Italian conman Charles Ponzi - Madoff took cash from clients to invest in securities.

He paid some old investors with money from new ones. However, most of the cash was going into his bank accounts.

When the scam was uncovered, Madoff claimed to hold pounds 46.5billion of clients' cash. In reality, his firm held just a fraction of that sum.

Madoff also admitted perjury and false accounting. He will be sentenced in June and could receive up to a 150-year prison term.

Did Ponzi cheat act alone?

WIFE, RUTH MADOFF: Married for 45 years, she was a director of one of his firms and kept an office near his in Manhattan. Claims to be no more than a 67-year-old housewife.

As Madoff launched an 11th-hour hunt for cash to keep his fraud alive, she withdrew EUR15.5m from a brokerage firm part owned by her husband's firm. She also has EUR70m of property.

SONS, ANDREW AND MARK MADOFF: Blew the whistle on him after he told them: "It's one big lie."

Mark, 44, and Andrew, 42, held trading jobs at Bernard J Madoff Investment Securities. Lawyer claims they knew nothing of the fraud.

BROTHER, PETER MADOFF: 62-year-old worked closely with Bernie as his compliance officer - a job obliging him to check the business was, in fact, generating the billions it claimed.

NIECE, SHANA MADOFF: Peter's daughter, 38, was a lawyer dealing in compliance with financial regulations. She also had a job with the Financial Regulatory Authority.

LONDON CONNECTION: Madoff is suspected of laundering millions through a small five-man office in Mayfair. His employees there say they were in the dark.

The victims

AMONG the rich and famous who invested with fraudster Madoff are: Steven Spielberg, below, Kevin Bacon, John Malkovich, CNN star interviewer Larry King, screenwriter Eric Roth, Ringo Starr and wife Barbra Bach, Dreamworks film boss Jeffrey Katzenberg and ex-US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. British investors include ex-Tory Party treasurer Lady Victoria de Rothschild and Lord Anthony Jacobs, former owner of BSM.

I'm so ashamed of my crimes and deeply sorry. I knew the risk

CROOKED FINANCIER BERNARD MADOFF

CAPTION(S):

CAGED Madoff at court yesterday; JUSTICE One client shows her joy outside court; FAMILY Ruth, Mark and Andrew
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Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Mar 13, 2009
Words:621
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