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Madoff Trustee Sues Swiss Banks Pictet & Cie, Banque J Safra

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April 7 (Bloomberg) -- Pictet & Cie and Banque J. Safra, two Geneva-based private banks, were sued for $216 million by the trustee liquidating the former investment firm of con man Bernard Madoff.

The trustee, Irving Picard, said today in separate filings in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in New York that the Swiss banks should have known Madoff was engaged in a fraud. He is seeking return of the money to redistribute to Madoff’s creditors.

Pictet made $156 million and Safra made $60 million through investments in feeder funds that steered money to the Madoff firm, Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities LLC, Picard claimed in the complaints. Picard has sued hundreds of firms, individuals and trusts seeking the return of profits made in Madoff’s fraud.

When Madoff was arrested in December 2008, firm statements showed 4,900 accounts with a total of $65 billion in nonexistent holdings, according to Picard. Investors lost about $20 billion in principal.

Calls to Pictet & Cie and Banque J. Safra after business hours in Switzerland weren’t answered.

Madoff, 72, pleaded guilty to masterminding the biggest Ponzi scheme in history and is serving a 150-year sentence in a North Carolina federal prison. Picard has collected about $10 billion for Madoff’s creditors.

The cases are Picard v. Pictet & Cie, 11-1724, and Picard v. Banque J. Safra (Suisse) SA, 11-1725, U.S. Bankruptcy Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

To contact the reporters on this story: Dawn McCarty in Wilmington, Delaware, at dmccarty@bloomberg.net; Bob Van Voris in New York at rvanvoris@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at mhytha@bloomberg.net

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