Ex-NY stockbroker target in Madoff investigation

Sonja Kohn, an associate of convicted swindler Bernard

Sonja Kohn, an associate of convicted swindler Bernard Madoff, is among those under investigation in the multi-billion dollar Ponzi scheme. (Dec. 1, 2008) Photo Credit: Bloomberg News Photo

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When she was photographed last year at a charity fundraiser in Vienna, banker Sonja Kohn wore a wide grin.

But life hasn't given Kohn, 60, much to smile about since Bernard Madoff's Ponzi scheme erupted in December.

A former friend and business associate of Madoff since her days as a stockbroker in Manhattan, Kohn has become the subject of investigations in the United States and Europe stemming from the scandal, according to legal sources familiar with the cases.

Kohn also has been named as a defendant in lawsuits in federal court in Manhattan by Madoff investors who said they lost their fortunes in the financial debacle. Madoff is serving a 150-year prison sentence.

The U.S. investigations involve the special trustee handling the bankruptcy of Madoff's company, as well as the Manhattan U.S. attorney's office, according to the sources, none of whom wanted to be identified.

Prosecutors in Vienna said they also have opened investigations into Kohn and Bank Medici, which she founded in the 1980s. The British Serious Fraud Office is also reportedly looking at Kohn's relationship with Madoff.

"The investigation is still going on," said Gerhard Jarosch, a spokesman for the Austrian state prosecutor's office in Vienna said Monday. "It will take weeks, even months."

The probe in Vienna was sparked by complaints by attorneys for some investors who lost money in Bank Medici hedge funds that fed an estimated $3.2 billion into Madoff's operation.

Vienna investigators are looking into allegations of bribery, money laundering and fraud, according to Jarosch.

In a telephone interview, Andreas Theiss, Kohn's attorney in Vienna, denied the allegations and said the Austria investigation won't turn up any evidence of wrongdoing.

"We expect by the end of the year criminal proceedings will stop," said Theiss, who added that the complaints against Kohn are motivated by some investors who are seeking a financial settlement from her.

"We feel Bank Medici and Sonja Kohn are victims [of Madoff]. They have lost a lot of assets," said a spokesman for the bank, now known as 20.20 Medici AG. Kohn, who lived in Monsey during her time in the United States, is a major shareholder of the bank.

The spokesman said Bank Medici has provided documents to the Securities and Exchange Commission, British and Austrian authorities.

Corporate records in New York show that Kohn was a principal in three securities businesses: Infovaleur, Eurovaleur and Valeur Securities Inc.

All three appear to be inactive and for a time operated out of 767 Fifth Ave., the records show.

Investigators are reportedly looking into a stream of payments, which sources said could have amounted to $40 million, from Madoff into Infovaleur.

Theiss, who has denied that Kohn took kickbacks from Madoff, said that while Infovaleur might have been paid for research done for Madoff, Kohn didn't get the money from Madoff's company.

In March, Massachusetts securities regulators said in filings that Cohmad Securities, a Madoff-linked firm, paid nearly $526,000 to Kohn. Regulators didn't say what the payment covered.

Though stung by the Madoff scandal, Kohn appears to be trying to reinvent her financial interests. Theiss said she has become involved in renewable energy projects in Israel and elsewhere.

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