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Wednesday, 4 March 2009

Madoff gives up property, art

NEW YORK - BERNARD Madoff has agreed to give up the rights to his disgraced investment business and his company's prized artwork and entertainment tickets as he faces another appearance in a federal courtroom on Wednesday.
Prosecutors requested the hearing on Tuesday so Madoff can appear in court with his lawyer, Ira Sorkin, because they believe the attorney may have conflicts of interest in the case. Mr Sorkin also represents Madoff's wife and several others in relation to the Madoff case.

The attorney said there is no conflict of interest and the issue can be completely resolved if Madoff tells the judge Wednesday that he has no problem with Sorkin representing him.

Madoff has been under house arrest at his Manhattan penthouse as the government investigates how he carried out a fraud he estimated at about US$50 billion (S$78 billion). His court appearances in the weeks after his arrest generated huge attention amid an uproar over his release on bail.

In a separate development, the trustee overseeing the liquidation of Madoff's business said the former money manager was surrendering ownership rights to his business, Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities LLC, along with the company's artwork and entertainment tickets. The trustee, Irving Picard, did not specify the value of the property or say what kinds of tickets and artwork Madoff possessed.

The ultimate goal is to put some of Madoff's remaining assets in the hands of investors who lost their life savings amid the scandal, and there are growing signs that some of them could see relief in coming weeks.

Stephen Harbeck, president of the Securities Investor Protection Corp, said he expected that the first checks could be mailed before April and possibly sooner and that the organization's US$500,000 cap would apply to most of Madoff's customers.

On Monday, a judge said in court papers Madoff and his lawyers are claiming that his US$7 million Manhattan penthouse and an additional US$62 million in assets can be kept from investors because they are in the name of his wife, Ruth Madoff, and are not connected to any alleged fraud.

Stephen A. Weiss, a lawyer who represents about 100 investors, including one with more than US$100 million in assets, said investors won't stand for the Madoffs keeping millions of dollars.

'It's been widely reported that she served as his bookkeeper for a number of years. If true, not only is she civilly culpable, but criminally as well,' Mr Weiss said. Ruth Madoff has not been charged in the case. -- AP

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