Disgraced financier says $65bn Ponzi scheme wasn’t particularly sophisticated, as he makes admissions that will heap pressure on US financial watchdog.
Bernard Madoff, the convicted fraudster who cost investors billions of dollars, has admitted that he could not quite believe he got away with the scam for so long, and that there were many times that he thought he had been caught.
In a four-and-a-half-hour interview from behind bars with lawyers acting for a group of victims, Madoff gave detailed information about the so-called “Ponzi” scheme and acknowledged that it had not been especially sophisticated.
One of the lawyers, Joseph Cotchett, said that Madoff had told him his scheme “was pretty open and straightforward, and he hid everything, but in an inept way”.
The comments will put further pressure on the financial watchdog in the United States, the securities and exchange commission (SEC), which has been accused of being asleep at the wheel for failing to detect the $65bn fraud.
The regulator is due to publish the results of an internal investigation within weeks.
Cotchett said Madoff had told him "you didn't have to be a rocket scientist to figure out what was going on. When you're getting the kinds of returns, you might have a tendency to look the other way, rather than asking questions."
Cotchett told reporters outside the North Carolina prison that Madoff had said: "There were several times that I met the SEC and thought: 'They've got me'." Madoff apparently agreed to the interview to protect his wife Ruth. "He obviously wanted to speak with us because in his opinion, certain members of his family knew nothing about it," Cotchett said. He said Madoff cared about his wife, but didn't feel the same about his two sons.