The Bernie Madoff of Sudan


Sure, the numbers aren’t as big, but Adam Ismael, a Sudanese ex-cop, has more than a little bit in common with Madoff, who we shall call the Babe Ruth of Ponzi schemes.

You see, Ismael, currently under comfy house arrest even as many of his countrymen suffer torture, ran an investment scheme that a. helped the ruling party in Darfur retain power and b. put a major portion of Darfur’s middle class in the poor house when his scheme failed.

The story comes from the intrepid Dan Morrison, who shed his New York City tabloid roots for the more exotic pastures of foreign reporting. Most notably, Morrison chronicled his journey from Lake Victoria to the Mediterranean for his book “The Black Nile,” which was selected as a Village Voice “best book of 2010.”

Morrison, as part of a series on the situation in Sudan published in Slate, reports that as much as $180 million was invested in Ismael’s scheme. Like Madoff, Ismael promised huge returns year in and year out. And like Madoff, the scheme rewarded a few early investors, but soon tanked when folks started asking for those big returns.

Which goes to show you, whether here or elsewhere, y’all don’t get something for nothin’.

Morrison, emailing us from parts unknown, notes, by the way, “There’s an old saying in Darfur that goes: ‘You’re trash without a Kalashnikov; get some cash with a Kalashnikov.’ Adam Ismael stole millions without ever flashing a gun.”