Madoff-Man of the Year

By Raffique Shah
December 28, 2008

Bernie MadoffPREDICTABLY, Time magazine named US President-elect Barack Obama as its “Individual of the Year, 2008”. Obama would undoubtedly emerge as “the Man” for publications and institutions that usually bestow such annual honours. In fact, for most people across the world, Obama is the Man of the Century, matters not that we are a mere eight tumultuous years into an era that is as unpredictable as Obama’s stature is predictable.

As a “Trini”, I look first among my own brethren before I scan the world for persons deserving of honour or dishonour. Invariably, I bypass the politicians. Really, who among this lot is worthy of praise? Jerry Narace, who, after half the population was stricken with dengue, still insists there is no outbreak of the dreaded fever? Colm Imbert, who last week discovered that developers and individuals had mutilated the hillsides, causing unprecedented floods? Basdeo Panday, “mash-up-master-supreme”, who is poised to smash yet another of the many political houses he helped build over three decades?

Sorry, none of them qualify, not even two-cucumber-Ross. In a year that saw us ride an economic roller coaster and enjoy some glory at the Olympic Games, who is my choice of “Man of the Year”? I scammed-sorry, scanned-the world, looked at banks and huge conglomerates, icons of unbridled capitalism, turn to quasi-socialism to rescue them from billion-dollar distress. I saw multi-billionaires reduced to a few billions, poor sods. In this vast ocean of exploiters and “scammers”, I found the Man: Bernard Madoff!

Before readers think that Shah has finally gone mad or “off”, or both, let me explain. I would have chosen Barack, but Bernie out-trumped the President-elect on the eve of his moment of glory. Obama raised and spent over $100 million to beat all comers in the race to the White House. When you add the sweat, tears, sacrifices and other inputs he and his team put together to win, they must have expended billions.

What has he inherited for all this output? A country steeped in debt to the tune of as much as US$30 trillion, according to some estimates. Two ongoing wars that cost, and from which extrication is difficult. How he would cope with this is probably giving Barack a permanent headache. Bernie’s case is quite the opposite. Here’s a man who started out as a life guard, never attended Ivy League colleges, but remained street-smart. Most of all, he recognised that people are greedy, and that the rich tend to be more greedy than the poor. Even better, being Jewish, he found it easy to gain the trust of Zionists, the well-heeled who were pumping money into Israel so that country could wipe Palestinians off the map.

These suckers were well, suckers. It the early 1990s, Madoff set up Kingate Global Fund that promised investors hefty returns on their investments. While stingy banks and other finance institutions were offering puny returns, Bernie guaranteed-and delivered-above 10 per cent. Much the way the “pyramid scam” invaded Trinidad in the 1980s, based on misplaced trust and greed, Bernie used initial depositors’ money to honour rich dividends to those who entered the scheme early. Late-comers were the biggest suckers.

The exclusivity of his scam was bait for the wealthy, the greedy and the stupid. Soon, multi-millionaires and billionaires were breaking down his Manhattan office-doors to get in on the action. So you have, say, $5 billion, and you want to invest $100 million of that in Bernie’s golden pond. “Sorry,” Bernie would say. “I have no room for that now .the fund is all taken.” “Pleeease, Bernie!” “Tell you what. As soon as there’s an opening, I’ll be in touch with you.” His agents would call you weeks later: “We do have an investment opportunity for you, but it’s for $200 million or more. And you must commit in 24 hours.” The rich and stupid: “I’m transferring the cash now!”

Bernie made his club so exclusive, the rich and famous were battering his gateway to heavenly wealth. A favourite haunt of his was Palm Springs in Florida, an enclave of ultra-rich, all-White, mainly Jewish retirees.

He took the Zionist Hadassah “charity” for a cool $90 million. He got his fellow-Jews to crawl at his feet before he “reluctantly” accepted their millions. He had big foreign banks (the Royal Bank of Scotland was one) invest in his scam. Interestingly, neither the SEC nor the most respected firms of auditors detected anything wrong in an investment business in which the numbers never added up.

Finally, after some US$50 billion in investments could not be accounted for, the 70-year-old Madoff was arrested and charged with fraud. He was smiling as he was taken to court. That smile told the story of a sophisticated “smartman”, the ultimate in my view, who was laughing at the fools whose greed he exploited to the hilt. Madoff ought never to have been charged with any offence. Those who entrusted him with their money, the fools who thought money was manna, are the ones who should be sent behind bars.

Bernie Madoff is my choice as Man of the Year.

6 thoughts on “Madoff-Man of the Year”

  1. What ,no mention of local crooks like Hindu Credit Union President Harry Harnarine and his close pal Sat Maharaj of Mahah Saba fame ,that fleeced poor ,hungry, and desperate ,Caroni workers of millions of hard earned pension dollars and savings via misuse of the Hindu Credit Union funds to build and maintain his lavish mansions and lifestyle in Miami reminiscent of another crook Gillman Hussein of an earlier era in sweet T&T?,83317.html

    The Shah is certainly loosing a step or two as he venture along in the autumn of his illustrous life, and kind of remind’s one of former President ANR the Castaria Kid that used the good Tobago folks to make great strides in the Eric William dominated political landscape, then likewise discarded them when they were no longer useful to him.
    Kind of remind one also of the great Mahatma Gandhi that built the hopes of millions of India’s Hindu Untouchable during his long independent struggles with British invaders , only to leave them ‘hanging high and dry,’ for years. Today millions are perhaps worst off than they were four decades ago , as industrial India gets poised for World War Three with nuclear arch rival Pakistan- another country that has betrayed its people dreams , especially that of its ultra Muslim first head of state ,Jinnah .
    Talk about the politics of distraction, Trinidadians have made it into almost a cultural art form . The reasoning seems to be – hey corruption is a global problem , so why should T&T be an exception, as long as I too like the PM and the sly Opposition Leader can jump on a plane and get medical attention where I want across the globe ,uncle can send me $1,000 US per month for spending money , or better yet I have five pension to depend on due to the several prestigious jobs I held through the years while crying about how racist and terrible my most forgiving country is – who cares?

  2. did’nt madoff take the billions to israel in refusal to pay us income taxes and hide the investors money from confiscation from us authorites for crimes deh had committed…or such such pot of concerns?

    and havent his investors been made aware that their money is in israel and safe and will be paid out from there..or converted into articles of value to proctect against american official seizure?

    something of what I remeber of a story I heard over the past 5 days!

  3. Yes navin ,who knows or cares really? It is clear that all people and countries are not created equal. This just a classic case. There are folks that would consider the madoff’s of the world to be excellent and savy business people and not mere common white colar crooks and bandits- as they really are.
    He too can eventually expect a pardon from future President come 2012 or 16 when his terms end.

  4. Leave Sat out of it, he saw it coming early and Bolted out in record timing. Bernie Madoff is a true Harry Harnarine or is it vice versa. Shah should have given them a joint award. I remember when Harry was offering 14%, he even got one of Pandays bright young lawyers to bring over money from the El Do cooperative and he wanted a commission from Harry and the cooperative as well. Hindu money jump up just like Jewish money. Thanks Raff for telling your half of the story. What a ting.

  5. But what about the Local Insurance companies offering deposits at high rates but do not earn profits to cover these interest expenses. One company is offering 11% on US Deposits that is just impossible to maintain or pay.

    Yes gentlemen we have at least three Madoff type schemes operating amoung our traditional financial companies so expect it to happen here in 2009

  6. Now who is this Lall-Dunn woman who returned to T&T and have flowers girls throwing flowers at her as she walked.
    Now Trini, find out more of her resume,it might be water in the medicine bottles.
    It is time we beware of wolves in sheep clothing.

    I met one at school in NY. She say she returning home with 1/4 education to open school and teach computer. I could not believe what i was really hearing.

    Remember Madoff well he made-off with billions of people investment.

    Trini living in the US for 21 years.

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