James Moore: Madoff is an unreliable witness – but a very convincing one

If contemplating his jail term and the suicide of his son have loosened his tongue, there may well be sleepless nights at some very grand institutions

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Bernie Madoff could hardly be said to be the most reliable of witnesses. This, after all, is the man who perpetrated the biggest pyramid investment scam in history. Lies were what he lived by – and lived by well – for years.

But when the old crook says that unidentified banks were "complicit" in his fraud – he previously said it was all down to him alone – it has to be worth a second look.

The sheer scale of the scam makes it hard to see how he carried it off without some help, either active or passive (by looking the other way). Even if the banks that dealt with him weren't actually "complicit" in the fraud, you have to ask why they didn't raise questions about his methods. The people who dealt with Madoff were supposedly smart, sophisticated, clever financiers – the sort of people who ought to have been able to smell a rat.

If they were not complicit, bedazzled by the power and money of Madoff, they certainly looked the other way.

The question now is whether Madoff's change of tack will help Irving Picard, the liquidator who is pursuing a string of hedge funds and banks for cash for the victims of Madoff's Ponzi scheme.

His targets deny any wrongdoing. But if contemplating his jail term and the suicide of his son have loosened his tongue, there may well be sleepless nights at some very grand institutions.

Common sense says that emails claiming you've won the Nigerian state lottery need to be treated with scepticism. The same should have been the case with Madoff.

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