Madoff’s ‘criminal soul mate’ claims to be victim

An Austrian businesswoman accused of being Bernard Madoff’s “criminal soul mate” has claimed she was a victim of the banker’s illicit operations herself.Madoff was sentenced to a maximum 150 years in jail by a court in New York City in the United States for what is widely considered to be the largest so-called Ponzi scheme in history.Private individuals and shareholders assigning Madoff to invest their money may have lost billions of Euros as the fraudster paid returns to separate investors from their own money or money paid by subsequent investors rather than from any actual profits earned.Now trustees seeking money from allies of the convicted American stock broker said Sonja Kohn, head of now defunct Viennese Bank Medici, could be Madoff’s “criminal soul mate”.US officials investigating the scam are seeking around 15 billion Euros (19 billion US dollars) in damages from Kohn and 53 other defendants including Italian bank UniCredit and its Austrian subsidiary company Bank Austria (BA).Kohn founded Bank Medici in the Austrian capital Vienna in 1984. The bank is not allowed to operate since Austrian Financial Market Supervisor FMA took its concession last year.Kohn’s lawyer Andreas Theiss announced yesterday that his client was a “victim” herself. “What is claimed in the lawsuit has nothing to do with reality,” he announced. Theiss added he expected the legal action to fail considering.The Viennese advocate said: “Miss Kohn and Bank Medici were victims of Mister Madoff themselves. There has been no change to that.”Theiss said Kohn has been focusing on doing business in the renewable energy sector since the “disaster” of the Madoff case emerged in 2008. Asked whether he knew where she was know, the lawyer said he had “no idea”.Martin Halama, a spokesman for BA, stressed the bank will “act vigorously” against the legal charges pressed by American trustees’ lawyers. The Austrian subsidiary of UniCredit holds a share of 25 per cent in Bank Medici.