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MP accuses Austrian government of Madoff cover up

An Austrian MP has filed a series of Parliamentary questions to make public allegations that senior banking officials and others in the Alpine Republic had actively worked with Bernie Madoff to create his global Pyramid scheme.

The Parliamentary questions from Freedom Party MP Hans-Joerg Jenewein were filed to make public the claims in a new book 'Pyramid Games' by British journalist Michael Leidig. The questions were made to the Minister of Finance regarding the ongoing progress in the Madoff Case – including Bank Austria-linked funds like the Primeo Fund, Herald Fund, Alpha Prime Fund and the network of Bank Medici and Unicredit Bank Austria.

The questions (transalted from German) and which have Parliamentary privilege together with the background are as follows:

"In December 2008, one of the world’s biggest finance scandals was uncovered, namely Bernard L. Madoff’s ‘Pyramid Scheme’.

"According to documents from the appointed liquidator, Irving H. Picard, around 65 billion dollars were lost, which were assets belonging to Madoff’s clients. It became clear that for more than 20 years the existence of this pyramid system relied on the fact that money invested by later investors was used to pay earlier investors. Austria appears to have played a central role in this.

"Within a few months two reports with a total of more than 500 pages (and more than 350 supporting documents) were created in the USA about the failings of the supervisors there. It highlighted massive neglect by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in the controlling and monitoring of Madoff, failings that were exposed and made public. Even though Madoff originally claimed to have acted alone, it was clear to all those involved that fraud on this level could not have been carried out by just one single person. It needed IT specialists and administrative workers to maintain the system itself.

"But all of that would have been pointless without people outside his firm whose companies covered him to the outside world and let his activities appear legitimate. People who cashed in personal fortunes to close their eyes, who failed to carry out controls, mislead investors and knowingly and willingly deceived, all in order to keep the system alive for as long as possible.

"In the USA people are still being pursued and in autumn a further five people are to have charges brought against them.

"But despite the efforts of the American authorities and the liquidator in resolving the case and securing the appropriate punishments for those involved, here in Austria it appears everything is being done to successfully delay proceedings and draw them out as long as possible – with the help of those responsible in the UniCredit Bank Austria network and their cunning lawyers.

"Even though the Network mentioned at the start was one of the first and most active in Madoff’s pyramid scheme, and acted as a door opener for European investors, those responsible are being protected by a constant delay in the proceedings. For a constitutional state, which in the question of corruption has continuously fallen to new lows in comparison with other countries, this is an unacceptable situation.

“It is worth noting that the fact that in the company structure of Bank Austria Worldwide Fund Management Ltd., BAWFM, Bank Austria had a 75 % share and the AVZ (a trust of the city of Vienna tied to the SPÖ) a 25% share. The AVZ, the trust brought into being by SPÖ mayor of Vienna Dr Michael Häupl, originally had the aim of hiding the returns of the Zentralsparkasse by putting it into a trust and thus protecting it from controls carried out by the audit courts – together with the support of those responsible at Bank Austria.

In summary it can be ascertained that:-

1.) The Madoff Financial Scandal had with SPÖ affiliated institutions (AVZ and the city of Vienna), Bank Medici, and UniCredit Bank Austria a strong founding proponent and a strong Austrian connection.

2.) The investor information compiled back then – confirmed by court documents – did not correspond to the true facts. Even the promised and indeed compulsory services were paid by the investors but not carried out.

3.) Through this network, despite manifold warning signals, a volume pertaining to billions of Euros were eaten up in the Madoff system. Without a doubt this (Austrian activity)  increased the length of this fraud and thus massively increased the damages.

4.) Provisions of hundreds of millions of Euros flowed back via offshore companies with Austrian backgrounds. The whereabouts of this money should be investigated – the Austrian courts up until now have not invested properly and have not been trying to clear up the whereabouts of this money.

5.) Senior Bank Austria staff sometimes occupied double functions and instrumentalised the country’s leading bank in order to be able to channel customer’s money in a certain way. These people are still being protected by the bank and by the politicians.

6.) Information about disappearing customer money and payments for example from Swiss and Luxembourg authorities were not followed up on by Austrian authorities and indeed until now this has been completely ignored.

7.) Possibilities for international cooperation to identify and trace those responsible and apply the applicable laws to them have been ignored in an unbelievable manner. By the means of transparent delay tactics the case has been dragged out and delayed.

8.) Instead of demanding that the bank co-operate in the investigation the bank as well as the Justice and Finance officials are working on a concentrated strategy to delay proceedings.

The Parliamentary Questions (a selection).

1) Has the Ministry of Justice taking any actions against Werner Kretschmer, Peter Fischer, Stefan Zapotocky and Gerhard Randa, who American authorities said last year should be treated as suspects in Madoff’s Pyramid Scheme Trial in the USA?

14) Which investigative steps has the Public Prosecutor made up until now with regards to the AVZ (i.e. have there been house searches, opening of accounts)?

15) Has it been checked at least during the current investigations whether the foundation purpose of the AVZ was the foundation of an off-shore company for the purpose of the sales of the Primeo Fund – the so-called Master Fund" – which then was used as a clone for all the others (i.e. Herald Fund and Alpha Prime)

20) How often and when exactly was Sonja Kohn questioned by authorities?

22) Is the Ministry of Justice aware that Sonja Kohn owned a 75 per cent share of Bank Medici, which is part of an international fraud system?

23) If not, what investigation steps have been made in Austria to date to clarify Sonja Kohn’s role in Madoff’s Pyramid Scheme? And what steps have been made to secure the data?

24) If yes, when can we expect charges against Sonja Kohn and further people responsible from Bank Austria circles in Austria?

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