UniCredit wins dismissal of Madoff claims

NEW YORK Tue Feb 21, 2012 9:24pm EST

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NEW YORK (Reuters) - A Manhattan federal judge dismissed racketeering claims against UniCredit and its Bank Austria unit, dealing the Italian bank another victory and the trustee representing victims of Bernard Madoff's Ponzi scheme a major setback in his quest for compensation for the victims.

In his ruling, U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff said the case brought by the trustee, Irving Picard, doesn't meet the legal standard to bring racketeering claims against the bank. He also threw out so-called common law claims against the bank.

Picard had alleged that UniCredit, Bank Austria, and former UniCredit chief executive officer Alessandro Profumo participated in a scheme to attract investors to Madoff's Ponzi scheme.

In July, Rakoff dealt Picard a similar setback, ruling that the trustee lacked legal standing to bring claims against banks including UniCredit and HSBC Holdings Plc for allegedly aiding and abetting fraud, unjust enrichment and aiding and abetting a breach of fiduciary duty.

A spokeswoman for Picard didn't immediately respond to emails seeking comment.

Marco Schnabl, a lawyer representing UniCredit, said: "We are pleased at the result."

The huge Madoff fraud was revealed in December 2008, when Madoff ran out of money to meet redemption requests. Madoff, who pleaded guilty to orchestrating the biggest investment fraud in Wall Street history, is currently serving a 150-year prison term.

The case is Picard v. Kohn et al., U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 11cv1181.

(Additional Reporting By Jonathan Stempel; Editing by Steve Orlofsky and Muralikumar Anantharaman)

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