13 Mar 2009

Financier Madoff pleads guilty to fraud

5:21 am on 13 March 2009

US financier Bernard Madoff has pleaded guilty to 11 charges surrounding a $US50 billion fraud.

Madoff said on Thursday he was "deeply sorry and ashamed" shortly before the judge ordered him to be jailed.

Madoff, 70, ran a Ponzi scheme where early investors were paid with the money of new clients. He said it had been running since the early 1990s.

It was the biggest financial swindle in Wall Street history.

A federal court in Manhattan has heard from a number of Madoff's thousands of victims. At least 20 had asked to speak in court.

Madoff told the court: "I cannot adequately express how sorry I am for what I have done."

He said that when he started the fraud, he wrongly hoped it would only be for a limited time: "I realised that my arrest and this day would inevitably come," he said.

Since his arrest in December, Madoff had been confined to his luxury Manhattan apartment. He is due to be sentenced on 16 June.

Investors included hedge funds, banks, Jewish charities, the wealthy and small individual investors in North and South America and Europe.