Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Bernie Madoff and the Russian Mob?

The latest word from the Bernie Madoff front, in the absence of real news (pending word on whether he'll be thrown in the slammer) is not news at all but rather speculation: was Bernie Madoff involved with the Russian mob? See this exchange of guesswork on CNBC.

Is it possible? Sure. I said from the beginning that I thought it possible that Bernie was being shaken down. I wouldn't be at all surprised if that happened. But I don't have the slightest idea and neither does anyone else, outside of the participants.

Let's be clear about our nomenclature. There's talk about the mob "investing" with Madoff. The mob doesn't "invest" with anybody if they can help it. They take. There's a lot of talk about money laundering and such, but my hunch is that if the mob is involved (and there's not a shred of evidence on that so far), it would be old-fashioned extortion. The Russian mob "stars" in a lot of the half-baked conspiracy theories you see floating around the Internet, but in this case it is entirely credible.

But honestly, I don't see how it matters all that much. What he did was so awful that it is kind of in the very cellar of horribleness, and cannot sink any deeper. Word emerged today that Bernie allegedly took a quarter of a billion dollars from a 95-year-old "friend" just ten days before the roof fell in. The mind boggles.

I've been writing about bad people for almost two decades, and if even half of the accusations against "I'm Close to the Regulators" Madoff are true, he would definitely rank as the very worst white collar thief I've ever encountered.

UPDATE: John Carney weighs in at Clusterstock. Incidentally, I wouldn't call Madoff a "victim," even if he was run over by a truck.

Personally I think that this is all a red herring, but you never know. Only the investigators, and of course the Madoff clan itself, would know for sure.

They call him "Bernie Made-Off" but my own name for him is The Shtunk. That's a Yiddish expression that refers to a human being who stinks (morally or physically). After reading about Madoff's scheme to rip off that 95-year-old "friend," I had to conclude that Madoff is the one, and only Shtunk.

At least there is a bright side to the Madoff scandal, as Susan Antilla points out: it's highlighted the ineptitude of the SEC.

© 2009 Gary Weiss. All rights reserved.

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