Arrested "rogue financier" led colorful life

Sun Mar 10, 2013 1:57pm EDT
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By Gareth Jones

BERLIN (Reuters) - The Uffizi Gallery in Florence provided a fittingly lavish backdrop for the arrest on fraud charges of Florian Homm, a flamboyant German financier who has spent more than five years in hiding.

U.S. authorities accuse the former hedge fund manager of orchestrating a market manipulation scheme to artificially improve the performance of his funds, a fraud that led to at least $200 million in losses to investors.

Homm, now 53, disappeared in 2007 from his luxury villa on the Mediterranean island of Majorca after, according to U.S. authorities, dumping tens of millions of dollars' worth of his own shares in his company Absolute Capital Management Holdings Ltd and causing huge losses to investors.

The story of his arrest by Italian police on Friday, like so much else in Homm's life, reads like a thriller. Acting on a tipoff from the FBI, the police followed his ex-wife and son to their rendezvous with the elusive Homm at the Uffizi.

There, as the three were admiring classical Greek sculptures, police said they arrested him "very discreetly".

"Even the museum guards didn't notice anything," said the director of the Uffizi, Antonio Natali.

Everything about the cigar-chomping Homm, who stands over two meters (6 feet 7 inches) tall and is nicknamed the "steamroller", seems larger than life.

In his native Germany, Homm is viewed by some as a symbol of the hubristic greed that helped trigger the global financial crisis of 2008-09.   Continued...