The Wall Street Journal is very careful with the libel laws, but I am increasingly confident that their reporters are beginning to sense that organized crime sits somewhere in the Bernard Madoff Ponzi scheme. The tipoff come from their classic tabloid use of the “made man’s” street name in quotes (like Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel). The main feeder fund to Madoff was Cohmad Securities.
Cohmad, a conjunction of the last names of investor Maurice “Sonny” Cohn and Mr. Madoff, carried especially tight ties. Cohmad was filled by employees with long-term or family relationships with the Madoffs, and its operations were enmeshed in the main Madoff businesses, interviews and records show.
Maurice “Sonny” Cohn and his associate Alvin “Sonny” Delaire have both been accused of playing fast and loose with securities regulations. As anyone who has watched Godfather II, Meyer Lansky’s great dream was to get “legit”–to move dirty money into clean securities. I have already written about how no one has come forward to make a claim on much of the money the flowed to Madoff from South America. If the whole scheme was some vast money laundering operation, then the actual investment return part of it was less important to many of the customers. According to an SEC complaint, Madoff maintained two bank accounts at JPMorganChase and three at Bank of America Mellon. At the end of every reporting period, Madoff’s CFO Frank DiPascali, reportedly converted its holdings to cash equivalents, i.e. treasury bills, to avoid SEC disclosure requirements. This should have been a tip off to the SEC. In 1996 Business Week had a cover story that uncovered much of the mobs activity on Wall Street. They thought all the action was in small cap stock manipulation. If my hunch is right, they had no idea that a $50 Billion scam could be pulled off.
Just about the time that Madoff’s scheme started up, the notorious Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI) went out of business.
BCCI became the focus in 1991 of one of the largest scandals in world financial history. Due to the massive fraud and corruption at the heart of the bank, it was described as a “$20-billion-plus heist”. Regulators in the United States and the United Kingdom found it to be involved in money laundering, bribery, support of terrorism, arms trafficking, the sale of nuclear technologies, the commission and facilitation of tax evasion, smuggling, illegal immigration, and the illicit purchases of banks and real estate. The bank was found to have at least $13 billion unaccounted for. The bank’s relationship with underworld elements led to the nickname “Bank of Crooks and Criminals International.”
With BCCI closed down, maybe Bernie and his partners saw a market opportunity. The fact that a lot of innocents got caught up in the scam is probably less important than who was getting their money out in the last nine months of Madoff’s scam.
My guess is it was the Goodfellas.