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Request to jail Madoff refused

BERNARD Madoff, the accused mastermind of the largest Ponzi scheme in history, remains free on bail after requests by prosecutors that he be jailed during the government's fraud probe were rejected by a second United States judge.

Madoff, who appeared on Wednesday at a hearing in New York's Manhattan federal court, returned to his multimillion-dollar Upper East Side apartment, where he is to remain under house arrest, Bloomberg News reported. The ruling by US District Judge Lawrence Mc°?Kenna comes a month after Madoff was charged with a lone count of securities fraud for allegedly directing the US$50 billion scam.

Prosecutors said that Madoff should be jailed because he attempted to dispose of US$1 million in valuables in violation of a court-ordered asset freeze, and that he might flee. The judge rejected the arguments, saying the existing bail terms were "severe."

"The chance of Mr Madoff fleeing at this point is as close to nil as you can get," McKenna said. "The freeze on the assets has made it close to impossible for the defendant to dispose of anything valuable."

Madoff, 70, confessed that he used new money to pay old investors, the government alleged. The investment adviser, who faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted, hasn't formally responded to the charges. He appeared at the courthouse wearing a bulletproof vest under a black overcoat.

McKenna imposed a new condition, requiring Madoff to inventory the contents of homes in Florida, Long Island in New York and France.


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