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The UK's Madoff? Trader vanishes with $200M of client cash

A currency trader has absconded with £130 million ($203 million) in investors' cash, in an alleged fraud that could prove to be the British equivalent of the Madoff case.

According to reports in U.K. newspapers the Mirror and The Telegraph, wealthy businessman Joe Lewis vanished after confessing that his company, JL Trading, had ceased business five years ago and that investors, who have continued to invest in the company, had no chance of recouping their money. He is under investigation by the U.K. police and faces a civil lawsuit.

But after briefly visiting relatives in Hull, Yorkshire, Lewis has now disappeared from his offices in Istanbul, Turkey and may be heading to the Far East, according to the Mirror.

Daniel Grill | Getty Images

According to both the Mirror and The Telegraph, Lewis sent an email to clients on December 3 stating: "Dear investor, I am writing to inform you that JL Trading is ceasing to carry on business. Contrary to the impression that I have hitherto given, the business has lost almost all of its assets, and there appears no prospect of those assets being recouped.

"JL Trading ceased foreign exchange trading in 2009 following substantial losses and since that time the business has suffered further losses, which I have tried to make good through investments in a number of commercial projects. However, it is now clear that the business will not be able to recover its losses and must cease trading. This means that, contrary to what was reported to you previously, you cannot expect any payments in the future."

Victims of Lewis's get-rich-quick scheme are rumored to include professional soccer players and golfers, according to The Telegraph and the Mirror.

On Monday, JL Trading's website said the company was no longer trading and directed those concerned to email customerservice@joelewis-trading.com.

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