|Investigators probing the Madoff Wall Street affair have found a number of prominent Diaspora Jews among the victims, including Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel, movie director Steven Spielberg, and real-estate and media magnate Mortimer Zuckerman, the Wall Street Journal reported Monday.The alleged $50 billion fraud by Wall Street financier Bernard Madoff has caused deep ripples in the Jewish philanthropic world, forcing the closure of two prominent U.S.-based charities and threatening the financial lifeline of a slew of other groups.
“The Spielberg Charity, the Wunderkinder Foundation, in the past appears to have invested a significant portion of its assets with Mr. Madoff, based on regulatory filings,” the Journal reported. It said that in 2006, profits from Madoff’s firm accounted for some 70 percent of the interest and dividend income of the foundation.
The Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity, founded by the renowned writer and Holocaust survivors, was among Jewish schools and charities hit by the alleged scam, the Journal said.
Zuckerman said Monday that he didn’t know Madoff, but that his charitable trust had lost $30 million after a fund manager had invested 11 percent of the trust’s money with Madooff.
The Chais Family Foundation, a California-based charity group invested entirely with Madoff, was forced to shut down operations on Sunday after years of donating some $12.5 million annually to Jewish causes in Israel and Eastern Europe, the JTA announced.
Among those invested in Madoff’s funds and Ponzi scheme are an impressive list of Israeli insurance companies: Harel, Clal and the Phoenix.
Estimates of the insurance firms exposure are NIS 40 million for Harel, tens of millions of shekels for the Phoenix and approximately NIS 12 million for Clal.
The Technion also has lost money from its own exposure to Madoff and his scheme. It invested funds it raised from donations with Madoff and may have lost NIS 25 million.
Madoff, 70, was the former chairman of the Nasdaq, and treasurer of the board of trustees at Yeshiva University and chairman of the university’s business school; he managed investment funds with over $17 billion in assets.
Madoff was arrested last Thursday by U.S. federal agents at his apartment after prosecutors said he told senior employees that his money management operations were “all just one big lie” and “a giant Ponzi scheme.”