Jewish Austrian Banker Suspected of Being Madoff's 'Criminal Soul Mate'

Sonja Kohn founded, Bank Medici, as well as Italy's UniCredit CRID.MI and its unit, Bank Austria; her lawyer claims Kohn was not a partner in crime but rather another victim of the ponzi scheme.

Jewish Austrian banker Sonja Kohn, accused in a United Staes lawsuit of being Bernard Madoff's "criminal soul mate", was instead a victim of the man behind the biggest fraud in financial history, her lawyer in Vienna said.

The U.S. trustee seeking money for people cheated in Madoff's decades-long multibillion dollar fraud sued Kohn and the bank she founded, Bank Medici, as well as Italy's UniCredit CRID.MI and its unit, Bank Austria, and 53 other defendants on Friday.

Austrian banker Sonja Kohn PR

The litigation seeks to recover $19.6 billion in damages.

Kohn's attorney Andreas Theiss reiterated his client's assertions that she did no wrong.
"The allegations in the lawsuit have nothing to do with reality," he told the Austria Press Agency late on Saturday.

"Nothing has changed. Mrs Kohn and the former Bank Medici are victims of Mr Madoff," he said, adding that he had "no idea" where his client was now. Since the Madoff "catastrophe" she has been active in the renewable energy field and is often on business trips, he was quoted as saying.

Another of her Austrian lawyers, Wolfgang Brandstetter, told Reuters the most recent allegations were "not new and have long been known to the Austrian authorities".

Kohn, the daughter of Jewish refugees from Eastern Europe, grew up in a Jewish community in Vienna before she moved with her husband to Italy where they founded Bank Medici in 1984.

Kohn moved to New York in 1985 where she first met and connected with Madoff after she and her husband founded a brokerage firm, the Eurovaleur Inc, and she became the first women to head a brokerage firm.

The complaint filed in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in New York claimed that $9.1 billion of stolen money was directly attributable to Kohn, her relatives and a labyrinth of feeder funds and banks in Austria, Italy and Gibraltar.

It said Kohn presented herself to potential investors as Madoff's close friend.

Bank Austria plans to contest "vigorously" the lawsuit linking it to Madoff's fraud, the bank said on Saturday.