Magazine article The Spectator

Interesting Season

Magazine article The Spectator

Interesting Season

Article excerpt

Gstaad

When Thierry Magon de la Villehuchet committed suicide just before Christmas, I hoped against hope that others would do the same.

No such luck. Villehuchet was an aristocrat, a gentleman and an honest man. He felt responsible for the loss of $1.4 billion and he took the honourable way out. I did not know Villehuchet but people who did have spoken very highly of him. The rest of Madoff's gang I do know, and they are as likely to do the honourable thing as I am to emigrate to Israel.

Most of these friends of Madoff own chalets in Gstaad, or visit regularly. I have warned personnel at the Gstaad Palace, the Yacht Club and the Eagle Club that if I come across any of them there will be fisticuffs. Not that any of them would fight.

People like that rarely do. The reason I'm so angry is that so many good people have been ruined by the greed of a few 'feeder' fund managers and so-called bankers. I will start with one Michael de Picciotto. His uncle, Edgar de Picciotto, is the founder and chairman of Union Bancaire Privée, a Genevabased bank that invested client money with Madoff. The Picciottos are Syrian-Lebanese Jews who have become extremely rich these past 20 years. Somewhere along the way they picked up the aristocratic 'de', that being the only similarity any Picciotto has had with anything resembling aristocracy. The younger Picciotto invested $700 million with Madoff.

Didn't the amazing return on Madoff's fund ring any alarm bells in Picciotto's head?

What needs to be done now is for the UBP to cough up the moolah to the clients it took down the Swanee. The bank has the money -- at the last count the UBP had 125 billion greenbacks under management -- but parting with it is a different story altogether.

Angry investors are now seeking to recover a portion of their funds, but what I'd like to know is why only a portion. The Picciottos are now deeply involved in damage control.

They have myriad lawyers and PR flacks, and as I write I hear that Edgar Picciotto is planning to come up to Gstaad. Although he is old and very ugly, a punch in the face would do him a world of good.

My friend Charles Fix, who lives two or three chalets down from me, lost 600 million greenbacks, most of it his own. …

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