Tag Archives: fraud

When something sounds too good to be true….

It usually is.

Bernie Madoff

Take Bernie Madoff. Financier to the stars, the rich, the cream of America’s (and the world’s) elite. A genius player of the money markets, a former chairman of the NASDAQ, a Wall Street legend. What better pedigree could you choose? And who better to invest with? The perfect high-rolling individual with whom to invest your millions. Or so it seemed. An investment return that defied the markets. And yet, in the end, no more than a Ponzi scheme.

Despite the intelligence of many of his clients, it was the oldest trick in the book. There was no capital, merely the payment of money to investors using other investors’ money. A paper profit but a puff of smoke. A house of cards. Arguably the biggest private fraud in history – $50bn – and perpetrated by an individual with an aura of invincibility that allowed him to convince those willing to make a seemingly staggering return to part with their life savings. There was the rarefied air of the Palm Beach Country Club, home to most of his investors, who he personally chose. There was no application to this exclusive group, you were invited by Madoff, adding to the air of elitism.

But the sad fact was many of these were older, couples, many charities that saw his philanthropy and followed it for the benefit of their charitable purposes. Big banks suffered as well – investors at BNP Paribas, Banco Santander, and HSBC were among the heaviest hit. Amazingly, the SEC investigated Madoff’s organisation eight times in the last sixteen years, and, incredibly, found no evidence. Similarly, a rival firm, determined to replicate his amazing results, concluded they were impossible, and in 2005, a report to the SEC still resulted in no findings. In the end, the credit crunch was what took the rug from under his manicured feet. Wishing to withdraw 7bn, Madoff couldn’t cover the cash. The end was nigh.

This week he pleaded guilty to 11 charges of fraud, and may face up to 150 years in jail. He’ll most likely die there. But while he admits his role, and remorse, only he will know why he did it. It is, in a time where greed is laid bare to us all, a staggering conceit, and one that probably says as much about personal greed (and, at the same time, the willingness for people to accept anything in order to make money) as any. Gordon Gecko would be proud.

All aboard the gravy train….

So, absolute power corrupts absolutely. But who’d want to be a politician? Well, if it can get someone like Robin Cook (RIP) sex with a secretary 20 plus years his junior, and Boris Johnson – please god, don’t let the pantomime clown have the keys to the capital – an affair or two (god knows there can’t be any other reason) then maybe it’s proof that, like beer, power can give even the most repulsive people the chance of fornication with those whom, in any other situation, given the choice, would choose the firing squad.

 

With sleaze and spin the watchwords of the last decade, would it really be worth it though? The tabloids adore nothing like a whiff of political scandal, (Tory peers sex addiction last weekend gracing the thoroughly morally upright ‘News’ Of The World) and considering, for such an apparently intelligent lot, their propensity for total and utter cranial bypass when cheating on wives/misappropriating funds/negotiating Saudi arms deals, you’d have thought that the only thing power does is cloud the grey matter.

 

But fret not, for there’s a place where all politicians go to die: Europe. Sacked from the party for dodgy tax affairs? Has-been powerhouse from the left? Just ask  Neil Kinnock and Peter Mandleson how lucrative being an MEP is and they’ll probably smile, wink, and wander off to their chauffered car.

 

Maybe that’s a little unfair (or not) on the ex-Labour monoliths, but last week proved that, compared to the vaguely transparent UK political system, Europe appears to be a black hole, especially when it comes to expenses. This is backed up by the astounding news that a report (reported in the Scotsman in February http://thescotsman.scotsman.com/latestnews/100m-fraud-inquiry-over-Euro.3805159.jpof hugely damaging proportions into MEPs expenditure, uncovering such gems as employing not one, but often multiple members of their family in ‘jobs’ as political researchers and secretaries (and often, them not even working for them), digesting vast amounts of expenses (6 figure sums that make our MPs seem like children after pocket money day) on holidays, (*ahem*, sorry, constitutional business), first class flights, limousines, (one wonders if ‘flowers’ got a mention?).

 

So, it’s hardly surprising, but utterly infuriating, that a report into their antics was astonishingly taken to vote, where, in a heart-warming moment of moral solidarity, they agreed by majority to suppress its publication. Why bite the hand that feeds? So, they get 150,000 to fly around the world all year, and our nurses and teachers have to strike to achieve sub-infaltion pay rises that take them to 50% of fuck all. If there’s one group that the tabs leave mostly alone but deserve our contempt it’s the wonderful MEP.

 

Still, if you can’t beat them….. flights to Brussels certainly are cheap this time of year.