Madoff whistleblower to speak in NZ (+video)

By Ben Chapman-Smith

A US financial fraud investigator who blew the whistle on a multi-billion Ponzi scheme run by Bernie Madoff will speak in New Zealand early next year.

Between 2000 and 2008, Harry Markopolos uncovered evidence which proved Bernard Madoff was running the biggest Ponzi scheme in history.

Madoff was eventually sentenced in 2009 to 150 years in prison after pleading guilty to defrauding thousands of investors of billions of dollars.

Markopolos and two members of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) will be in New Zealand next February to speak at two events hosted by the Serious Fraud Office (SFO).

The presentation from Markopolos will be "timely" given the recent conviction in the B'On case and current suspicions around Ross Asset Management, said the SFO's acting chief executive Simon McArley.

"Over the past two years the SFO has dealt with six actual or alleged Ponzi schemes.

"While those have been of varying sizes and impact, the total losses involved will likely exceed $500 million."

The SFO will host The Economic Crime Seminar on February 11 and the inaugural international Economic Crime Agency Network (ECAN) conference on February 12 and 13.

"We are fortunate to have secured a range of very experienced overseas experts and we were keen for New Zealand business people to be able to hear them too," McArley said.

Markopolos published a book in 2010 about the Madoff fraud, entitled No One Would Listen: A True Financial Thriller.

In the book, he explains how it took him nearly ten years before the Securities and Exchange Commission paid attention to evidence he provided about Madoff.

Markopolos has been profiled on 60 Minutes, in The Wall Street Journal, and in the documentary Chasing Madoff.

FBI agents James Barnacle and Francine Gross, who will also speak, were involved in investigations into the insider trading activities of Raj Rajaratnam and Rajat Gupta.

They will also talk about investigating the US$7 billion Ponzi scheme operated by R. Allen Stanford.

ECAN is for members only and will be attended by delegates from agencies such as the UK Serious Fraud Office and European Commission Anti-Fraud Office.

It aims to build an international network between agencies involved with investigating and prosecuting economic crime.

"With the increasing globalisation of fraud it is important for those agencies investigating serious fraud and corruption to have strong international relationships," McArley said.

The Economic Crime Seminar will be open to New Zealand's banking, legal, accounting, fraud prevention, and law enforcement communities.

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