Third Madoff yacht seized

PARIS – Another of Bernard Madoff’s trophy assets has been seized, this time in the south of France.

French authorities on the Cote d’Azur have chained up his $7 million yacht ‘Bull’ at a port in the exclusive Mediterranean enclave of Cap d’Antibes, between Cannes and Nice.

Bailiffs threw a heavy chain around the boat’s propeller on Friday after a court granted the request by French investment firm Meeschaert, one of the many former investors in one of Madoff’s funds that is now suing to get some of its clients’ money back.

The Bull was seized ‘just in time,’ lawyer Philippe Rames of Gide Loyrette Nouel told the Associated Press. ‘It seems that the people who were taking care of the boat were getting ready to move it to more accommodating waters,’ said Rames, who is working for Meeschaert on the case.

A warning posted by the bailiffs on the boat reads: ‘Important: Do not turn on the motors, considering that the propellers are chained.’

It cautions that ‘major judicial problems’ will result if anyone attempts to remove the boat.

The yacht seized Friday is a 27-meter (89 foot) Leopard, built by French luxury boat builder Rodriguez Group SA, Rames said. It is moored at the Port Gallice, where the annual fee to keep a yacht of this size runs to euro35,220 (US$47,500) according to the port’s web site.

Last week a Palm Beach mansion owned by Madoff and two of his yachts were seized in the United States, including a 55-foot yacht also named ‘Bull,’ a 1969 Rybovich worth $2.2 million.

Madoff, 70, is in jail in New York awaiting sentencing after he pleaded guilty to swindling billions from investors in what could be the biggest scam in Wall Street history. He faces up to 150 years behind bars.

Prosecutors in the United States are seizing as much as they can of Madoff’s personal fortune, and have begun demanding millions of dollars in payments from his relatives. Roughly 6,700 people have filed claims for a share of whatever is recovered. Thousands more – some who lost more than $1 million – are expected to come forward.