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Trump's new finance chairman was sued over Madoff fraud profit

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Donald Trump's new national finance chairman was sued in 2010 for the return of US$3.2 million in fake profit from his mother's account with Bernard Madoff, the mastermind of a US$17.5 billion Ponzi scheme.

[NEW YORK] Donald Trump's new national finance chairman was sued in 2010 for the return of US$3.2 million in fake profit from his mother's account with Bernard Madoff, the mastermind of a US$17.5 billion Ponzi scheme.

The lawsuit was dropped last year because of time restrictions imposed on a trustee seeking to recoup investors' losses from customers who inadvertently profited by withdrawing more money than they put in.

Steven Mnuchin, a business associate of Trump's and also chairman and chief executive officer of Dune Capital Management LP, was named to the Republican presidential candidate's campaign on Thursday.

Mr Mnuchin was linked to Madoff through the estate of his late mother, whose roughly US$2 million investment with the financier more than doubled to US$5.2 million.

When Mnuchin's mother, Elaine Cooper, died in February 2005, he and his brother Alan Mnuchin were named as beneficiaries and executors of her estate. Within a few months, US$5.2 million was withdrawn from her account at Bernard L. Madoff Securities LLC.

Three years later, on Dec 11, 2008, Madoff was arrested. Irving Picard, the trustee who sued seeking to refund thousands of victims of the fraud, said US$3.2 million of that was fake profit that Madoff had stolen from others.

"It was my mother's estate and I was merely the executor," Mr Mnuchin said in a phone call. "I was not involved in it whatsoever. It's long over and I had nothing to do with it."

SUITS DROPPED

Mr Picard dropped the case against Mr Mnuchin after a court ruling forced him to forfeit hundreds of such suits because the bogus withdrawals were made more than two years before the fraud collapsed.

Mr Picard had also sued Steven Mnuchin's brother Alan, their lawyer William Zabel and trusts associated with the family.

Neither Mr Mnuchin nor his mother were accused of knowing about Madoff's fraud, but Mr Picard sued all investors who withdrew more money than they put in.

Mr Picard has so far recovered more than US$11 billion for victims through such lawsuits, as well as complaints against banks and offshore feeder funds that helped feed the scam.

Steven Mnuchin declined to say who got the US$3.2 million withdrawn from Madoff's accounts.

"I'm not going to comment about who was the beneficiary," he said. "They are no longer trying to claw back."

Mr Zabel, of Schulte Roth & Zabel LLP in New York, was named in the suit for his role as trustee for the Mnuchin trusts.

Mr Zabel also represented the estate of Jeffry Picower, a longtime Madoff customer whose widow agreed to forfeit US$7.2 billion that the investor got from the con man's scam.

Mr Zabel didn't respond to a phone call requesting comment, made after regular business hours.

BLOOMBERG