Swiss banks reject Madoff trustee clawback claim

Thu Jun 7, 2012 6:08pm IST

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* Claims vs three Swiss banks total more than $500 mln

* Lombard Odier, BCV reject claims, EFG declines comment

ZURICH, June 7 (Reuters) - Two Swiss banks rejected claims by the trustee seeking to recover money for victims of Bernard Madoff's fraud, saying on Thursday they had held Madoff-linked funds for clients but had not made money from the sale or performance of those funds.

Swiss private bank Lombard Odier and regional savings bank Banque Cantonal Vaudoise both said they will contest the claims of trustee Irving Picard, who is seeking $179.4 million and around $10 million respectively from the banks.

"Investments in funds exposed to Madoff were made by individual clients or third-party managers," Lombard Odier said in a statement. "In this context, the role of Lombard Odier & Cie is limited to that of a depository bank, holding deposits on behalf of its clients."

BCV also said it had acted as depositary for clients who had bought into Madoff-related funds under their own steam, and said it saw no risk to the bank from the trustee's claims.

A third Swiss bank, Geneva-based EFG International, declined to comment after Picard filed a claim for $354.9 million against it on Wednesday.

The claims were among several new law suits Picard filed on Wednesday as he ramps up efforts to "claw back" assets withdrawn by some Madoff clients before the fraud was discovered.

The lawsuits say while Madoff was running his Ponzi scheme, some clients received distributions from fictitious profits, and these should be returned to help reimburse Madoff's victims.

Picard has filed more than 1,000 lawsuits on behalf of former Madoff customers, and according to his website has reached agreements to recover $9.13 billion to repay them.

Earlier this week, a U.S. district judge said investors in a feeder fund advised by Santander's Geneva-based unit Optimal could not rely on U.S. securities laws to recover losses on investments made outside the United States.

Madoff, 74, pleaded guilty in March 2009 to running a Ponzi scheme and is serving a 150-year sentence.

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