Harry Markopolos is the independent financial fraud investigator, who, over a period of nine years, tracked Bernie Madoff's $50-billion Ponzi scheme, screaming to the heavens when no one would listen. Testifying this morning before the House Financial Services Committee, he took an opportunity to speak directly to the Russian mafia and other organized crime figures who lost billions when Madoff's hedge fund imploded. "I'm the good guy here!" he said, eager to have them understand that he was only protecting their investments from a financial predator. Madoff's victims in the US tended to be Jewish ("Ponzi schemes are first and foremost an affinity fraud," says Markopolos), whereas overseas he preyed on mafiosi, royal families, blue-blooded aristocrats, and the nouveaux riche. (It's interesting to note that his victims also indirectly included Iraqi refugees.)
Markopolos is used to living with danger. A former Army Special Forces operator, he told Congress that he and his small team of volunteers have all feared for their lives at various points during almost a decade of building a case against Madoff. His testimony (.pdf) reads like a John le Carré spy novel, detailing how he and three other independent investigators secretly conspired against huge odds and physical dangers to bring down one of the worst white-collar criminals in American history. "If Mr. Madoff was already facing life in prison, there was little to no downside for him to remove any such threat," Markopolos said. "Neither my team nor I had any personal knowledge of Mr. Madoff or his psychological make up. As such we had only the conclusions of our investigation into his fund to surmise of what he may have been capable. We did know, however, that he was one of the most powerful men on Wall Street and in a position to easily end our careers or worse."