Lawyer for Platinum Partners founder assails prosecutors’ ‘lies’

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NEW YORK (Reuters) – A lawyer for Mark Nordlicht, founder of defunct hedge fund firm Platinum Partners, assailed U.S. prosecutors at Nordlicht’s criminal trial on Wednesday, suggesting they deliberately misled jurors to boost their careers.

“I’m going to show you lies told to you by the government,” Jose Baez told the jury during a fiery closing argument in Brooklyn federal court, where Nordlicht faces charges of defrauding investors.

Convicting Nordlicht, along with two other Platinum executives on trial, would be a “platinum trophy” in a career-making case for the prosecutors, Baez said.

“Don’t think for a second that there aren’t motives involved,” he added.

Baez argued that Nordlicht was upfront with investors about the risks they faced, both when they first invested and on investor calls in 2014 as Platinum’s flagship fund, the Platinum Partners Value Arbitrage Fund, began to unravel. He also noted that Nordlicht was a major investor in the fund, and took no salary.

“For you to believe that he’s defrauding those investors, he’s got to defraud himself,” Baez said.

Baez’s closing arguments came near the end of a nine-week trial that featured testimony from investors and former Platinum employees.

Earlier in the day, Assistant U.S. Attorney Alicyn Cooley delivered the prosecution’s closing argument, telling jurors “overwhelming evidence” in the case proved that Nordlicht and his fellow executives fed “shameless lies” to investors.

“The defendants’ violated the investors’ trust,” she said. “They violated it like it was nothing.”

Prosecutors charged Nordlicht and his co-defendants, Platinum’s co-chief investment officer David Levy and Chief Financial Officer Joseph SanFilippo, with fraud in December 2016, saying they and others at Platinum bilked investors out of “millions and millions of dollars” in two different schemes. All three men have pleaded not guilty.

In one scheme, prosecutors said, Platinum overvalued the often-illiquid assets of its flagship fund and used money from new investments to pay out redemptions to select earlier investors.

In the second scheme, according to prosecutors, Nordlicht and Levy defrauded bondholders in Black Elk, an oil exploration company Platinum owned, by diverting money from asset sales to Platinum ahead of Black Elk’s 2015 bankruptcy.

Lawyers for Levy and SanFilippo were expected to deliver their closing arguments after Baez finishes on Thursday, followed by a rebuttal from the prosecution.

U.S. District Judge Brian Cogan will then instruct jurors before they begin their deliberations.

Platinum’s assets are being liquidated under the oversight of court-appointed receivers.

Reporting by Brendan Pierson in New York; Editing by Tom Brown

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