MADRID - There are up to three million "direct and indirect" victims worldwide of the alleged fraud by US broker Bernard Madoff, a Spanish law firm that has filed a US lawsuit in the name of some of the victims said Tuesday.
"Our calculations are that at least three million people were affected by the Madoff affair, three million people who could be directly or indirectly affected by the case," Javier Cremades, the president of law firm Cremades Calvo-Sotelo, told a news conference.
The estimate is based on information collected from over 30 law firms around the world that are representing the victims of the alleged pyramid scheme in 25 countries, he said.
Cremades said the total amount involved could turn out to be higher than the 50 billion dollars (39 billion euros) that has been widely estimated so far.
Last week the law firm, which has offices in Argentina, Brazil, Colombia and Portugal in addition to Spain, filed a class action lawsuit in Florida in the name of people who invested in Madoff through a fund run by Santander, Spain's largest bank.
Shortly after the lawsuit was filed, Santander offered to reimburse the 1.38 billion euros which its private banking clients lost by investing in its Optimal fund -- the first offer of its kind by a bank involved in the case.
Santander, the largest bank in the eurozone by market capitalization, said in December that it had a total of 2.33 billion in client funds exposed to Madoff. It has so far not offered to reimburse its institutional investors.
The law firm said Madoff had victimized people in many countries, including Argentina, Brazil, Switzerland, South Africa, Mexico and Israel.
Madoff, a 70-year-old former chairman of the Nasdaq stock market, was arrested in December and charged with using billions of dollars from new investors to pay off older ones in a Ponzi or pyramid scheme.