Bernie Madoff, the financier behind one of the biggest scams in global history has died in prison it was announced today.

Madoff ran what has been described as the largest Ponzi scheme ever seen, swindling clients out of billions of dollars during the decades-long fraud.

Imprisoned in 2009 for 150 years after pleading guilty to numerous counts of fraud, the 82-year old died in prison from natural causes.  

A Ponzi scheme is where money from new investors is used to prop up returns for existing stakeholders.

Madoff managed to keep the plates spinning for 16 years despite persistent rumours and eight investigations by regulators in the US and elsewhere.

Charities were his major customers and as they rarely withdrew money, he was able to get away with the fraud undetected even claiming that he hadn’t actually dealt in anything for years when he was arrested in 2008.

Madoff said that his firm’s assets were worth US$60bn, though investigators said customers actually lost US$17.5bn of which US$13bn has since been recovered.

Celebrities were also among those caught by the scam with actor Kevin Bacon and director Stephen Spielberg said to have lost substantial sums.

Attempts to get the fraudster released last year on the grounds that his ailing health made him a potential Covid-19 victim were turned down.

Madoff, whose crimes were described as extraordinarily evil by Denny Chin, the US District Judge who sentenced him, said he started the Ponzi fraud after the market was hit by the Gulf War.

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