Lawyers form alliance to defend Madoff victims

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MADRID (AFP) – Some 5,000 lawyers have formed an international alliance to defend victims of the alleged scam perpetrated by Wall Street investment broker Bernard Madoff, the alliance’s leader said Tuesday.

“The initiative intends to handle the international legal defence of some three million people hit by the global fraud,” Javier Cremades of Spain told a news conference in Madrid.

The alliance groups 35 law firms representing almost 5,000 lawyers from 22 countries, including the United States, Britain, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Luxembourg, Brazil, Argentina, Mexico and Israel.

One of the goals of the group is to compile and exchange information, the lawyers said.

The creation of the alliance marks “the beginning of the gathering of the facts,” said Charles Grice, a representative of New York law firm CRI Compliance.

Madoff, a 70-year-old former chairman of the Nasdaq stock market, was arrested in December on suspicion of having taken billions of dollars from new investors to pay off older ones in a so-called Ponzi or pyramid scheme.

The law firms involved believe the affair could generate 22,000 legal cases throughout the world. The victims include investment funds and banks as well as private individuals.

“It’s the first time that such an alliance has been set up, but it is also the first time that a fraud is global,” said Michel Pitron of French law firm Gide Loyrette Nouel.

Cremades said that the countries hardest hit relative to the size of their populations are the Netherlands, followed by Britain and the United States.

This alliance “offers a great opportunity to share information,” said Jujrn Lemstra of Dutch law firm Pels Rijcken and Droogleever.

Original Article

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