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Taki: Madoff's make away


by Taki Theodoracopulos

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 Geneva-based 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. Needless to say, he is not best pleased, and the man who got him to invest is one Andrés Piedrahita, a Colombian turned money manager and multimillionaire on the back of Bernie Madoff. The last time Piedrahita saw the mother of my children in Geneva airport he remarked how surprised he was that she was flying commercial. Now that’s what I call a gent. He is at present lying low.

Piedrahita, a short, loud man, is married to one of Walter Noel’s daughters, Noel being the top recruiter for Madoff’s fund, along with Jacob Ezra Merkin, in the Fairfield Greenwich Group, a fund of funds that also worked as a ‘feeder fund’ for Madoff. Walter Noel used his sons-in-law as recruiters, finding suckers for Madoff’s schemes. Philip Toub, a man I’ve known as long as I’ve known his brother-in-law Piedrahita, is also an old Gstaad hand. All these bums have now put up a wall of lawyers between themselves and their victims, which might be the way democracy works, but that don’t make it right, as they used to say in Brooklyn.

In fact, Madoff used Jewish charities to build up immunity from snoopers. Anyone suspected of being anti-Madoff was leaned on—heavily. There were many who steered clear of Madoff nonetheless. In 2003, the French Société Générale figured that Madoff’s numbers didn’t add up and placed him on its blacklist.

The trouble is that the U.S. government will not go all the way while prosecuting Madoff. Uncle Sam would if there were pension funds involved, but going to bat for some rich white Europeans is not Sam’s habit. Obviously Madoff has hidden assets, perhaps in the billions, and most of his feeder fund managers have money, too. I don’t see any of them wearing striped pyjamas any time soon. Smart lawyers, the best money can buy, will defend them against underpaid government mouthpieces. The leading players so far have maintained a stony silence, making sure to avoid any kind of apology or statement of responsibility. Villehuchet’s suicide is probably seen as a dumb act by the Madoffs, Picciottos, Piedrahitas, Toubs and Noels of this world. It’s going to be an interesting Gstaad season, to say the least.

Taki Theodoracopulos, better known as Taki, is a journalist and writer, living in Gstaad, London, and New York. His column ‘High Life’ has appeared in The Spectator for the past 25 years, and he has also written for National Review, the London Sunday Times, Esquire, Vanity Fair, the New York Press, and Quest Magazine, among others. In 2002 Taki founded The American Conservative magazine with Pat Buchanan and Scott McConnell. He is also publisher of the British magazine Right Now! and has been writing for GstaadLife since its first season in 2003/4. More of his musings can be found at here.

What do you think? What do you think? (Comments 23)


Davey & Paula Bakhshi - Boston, USA.

Spot on Mr. Theodoracopulos. To add insult to injury, as of Tuesday 13th Jan 2009, reports indicate that a plea deal appears to be in the works. Madoff's lawyer, Ira Lee Sorkin, has been reported by federal prosecutors in "engaging in discussions concerning a possible disposition of this case." Irrespective, we predict Madoff will either escape to Israel or spend the rest of his life in prison. Madoff is too much of a coward to take his own life. There will never be any level of sufficient justice. Either way, we hope you score a knock out. So get those gloves on and practice those "fisticuffs." We hope one day to celebrate some sense of retribution with you at Green Go's.

Davey & Paula Bakhshi - Boston, USA.

Mr. Theodoracopulos, I should have stated in my previous post for you to reserve and practice those "Fisticuffs" on Bernard Madoff & on him only.

We are all victims, directly or indirectly, including the Picciotto's. I do not believe any one, from UBP to the prolific salesmen such as Andres Piedrahita at Fairfield, recommended investment's with Madoff on the knowledge of a Ponzi in operation. Most firm's got duped and over wrote any sensible due diligence. In my opinion, that is their biggest error, evidenced by those who succumbed, amongst others, M&B Capital, Royal Bank of Scotland, HSBC, Nomura, BNP Paribas, Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, Santander ..............................

Finally, as I understand it, the "de" in Picciotto's originates from their Spanish ancestry. Those who fled the Inquisition continued with their ancestral names in new lands and therefore in this instance the "de" did not signify "Aristocracy", but "OF" what ever place they came from. This is a practice that continues till today.

Adam Shaw

Dear Taki,
I remember you as being funny, charming and smart... Certainly not an anti-semite. What happened?
Madoff's a despicable crook. But so are a large percentage of the leaders/financiers of the free, and so-free, world. Whether they be dyed-in the wool Wasp, Baptist, Catholic, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu or even Greek Orthodox.
Don't be tacky, Taki. A crook is a crook. Remember Arafat and his blonde? How about Enron? And The Keating Seven? And Papa Doc. Remember Mobotu? And Cardinal Marcinkus? How about Fujimori ? Are all the Russians, South Americans, and pseudo-titled dregs of various mini kingdoms you sit next to going up the Wasserngrat cleans as whistles? Are they Jews? Please.
"Fart" your skis not your columns.
--Adam Shaw

Philip Ibrahim

Bravo Taki. Some truth and more to come.
Courage is so rare !
Samuel Piedrahita not so proud of his son Andres :
The Jews cannot trust each other anymore in New York and elsewhere and now they want to start WW III. Get them out of Gaza, the West Bank and if possible out of Global finance...


Very good, I hope those " White Collar Thieves " will not come anymore to Gstaad to polute the village.
For me they are at the same level as the guy who steal an old woman's bag in the street in total cowardice.
I have red other names from Gstaad like Buisson and Stucki.
Are they in the same band?


Thanks God the Jews are not all like Madoff.
Please don't make a simplist and anti-semetic short cut.
That would render for me this article totally "offside"

Davey & Paula Bakhshi - Boston, USA

Mr. Philip Ibrahim - in reference to your recent post, indeed Mr. Madoff belongs to the Jewish fate. However, why should his criminal actions represent an entire religion / race / state? Forgive me for assuming from your surname "IBRAHIM", how does it make a Muslim feel when he /she is branded as war mongering terrorist? Of course that is not right and it is wrong for any one to generalize an entire community. I am neither Jewish nor Muslim. I have few but very close friends from both religions as well as from all walks of life. First and foremost my friends are human beings, we are all one as part of greater humanity. Please could we ensure that this discussion does not become an Anti-Semetic forum. Your cooperation, respect and tolerance towards fellow human beings (except Bernard Madoff) would be very much appreciated. Peace to all.

Davey & Paula Bakhshi - Boston, USA

Mr. Adam Shaw - great points made. I hope Mr. Philip Ibrahim takes note of what you have stated in your post.

Philip Ibrahim

D & P Bakhshi
So happy for you that your friends are human beings. Funny, so are mine !
Peace starts at home and home should never be left in the hands of Barak & Olmert and the people and countries who support them.
Peace to all indeed.


Philip Ibrahim, what does Madoff have to do with this? Who else are you going to make as a scape goat for all your problems? QED


Mr Ibrahim it is funny you are like many uou talk against Mr Barak and Olmert, but I try to find the leader of the HAMAS in your text. Ah sorry they are kind,serene, democratic,funny...(for you maybe).
Mr Taki I fear you had made your first "skiding text" if I look at all the comments out off Madoff subject.

werner pluss

Some more of the same on the way


How interesting - I count two references to the word Jew or Jewish in the article, yet suddenly out come all manner of anti-anti semites. Sadly this happens any time an article is published which supposedly shows Jews or Judiasm in a bad light.

Taki identifies Madoff, among other things, as Jewish - which is accurate. His point however, I think, is that Madoff used all his connections, including Jewish ones, to good effect.

There is no anti-semitism here folks. Think about it, every time you call Jew-hater too quickly, you 'cry wolf' - making the fight against the real Jew haters all the more difficult.


What a bunch of ignorant, uneducated, anti semites you are...SHAME ON YOU!

John de Doe

Most of you suffer from altitude sickness.

1. Adding "de" to a name which lacks any classic aristocratic heritage is a very "common" and transparent ploy. I'm Spanish,I know. Bravo Taki.

2. Delusional you are if you think Noel, Piedrahita and Tucker didn't have a clue. During Madoff's plea bargaining phase, you will find out the details. Just because legitimate institutions e.g. Santander were duped, don't offer that up as cover for the rats who knew exactly what they were doing. I can assure you the federal prosecutors in NYC are very aware of the distinction. Have some balls, will you?!

3. Please save the Arab-Jewish bickering for another day. It's so tiresome to the rest of the world. The arguments never end.

Duventre de Maman

De Doodoodoo, de Daadaadaa, that's all I want to say to you!

John de Doe

and Hugo de Chavez, Jennifer de Lopez, Ponce de Leon and Saadam de Hussein to you too!


Dear Adam Shaw,
do you remember that German wicked, who said PAIMPLE instead of pimple? It's almost 25 years ago, but maybe you remember the "Palace-Maidli" with (almost) your mother's name...
Here's my email: cratchforce@web.de

Greetings from Cologne

Robin Will

OUTRAGEOUS! I have it from a direct source in London that Mr. Piedrahita has just received his brand new 22,000,000.00 Euro 150 foot yacht called "Oxygen" and has been cruising the Mediterranean for the past month. He was spotted in St. Tropez, and more recently in Venice. You can see a photo of the boat in the Camper Nicholson Website.

  Jill Druhlman

Why does the Swiss Banking System allow the inernational thieves to find such a safe haven...Hole -in-the-wall... None of the lawmen will ride in to take over these offenders... They should be Drawn and Quartered.
Gstaad is the would capital of theivery. No wonder the Saudis The walls will come down. Gstaad is a haven of the rich and crooked. From the book of the Hans Christen Anderson's ... Emperor's New Clothes.

D Halle

Mr Theodoracopulos ,
How did these oracle style bankers pull all of this off, glorified salesmen! I can't believe your flying commercial -- Well I have yet to hijack the wealth of the great and the good to justify a Global Express.

Harry H

Taki - how did you earn all of your wealth? Oh - thats right - you inherited it. Quite impressive.

Sophie S

If Taki had been born in Germany, there is little doubt as to where his sympathies would lie:


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