Criminal probe trail going cold at MF Global

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By Grant McCool and Nick Brown,

When commodities brokerage MF Global imploded, the FBI and federal prosecutors were quick to launch an investigation to pursue what seemed obvious to outspoken regulators and lawmakers: laws were broken and crimes were committed.

More than three months later, it is far from clear that anyone will face criminal charges over the disappearance of more than $ 600 million in customer money as MF Global spiraled towards bankruptcy in the brokerage’s final, frantic days in the last week of October.

So far, the MF Global investigation is not tracking the early progress of other high-profile financial scandals such as RefCo, where former Chairman Phil Bennett was arrested within days of the disclosure that the futures firm had been hiding losses for years.

Lawyers and people familiar with the MF Global investigation of the firm that was run by former Goldman Sachs head Jon Corzine say that even though the hunt is still on to find out whether or not officials at MF Global intended to pilfer customer money in a desperate bid to keep the brokerage from failing, the trail at this point is growing cold.

To date, scant evidence of criminal intent has emerged in company emails, no former or current employees have sought to cut a deal to provide testimony about potential wrongdoing and seasoned defense lawyers say they are not seeing the tell-tale signs of a hot criminal investigation.

A source familiar with the work of Louis Freeh, trustee for the MF Global holding company that filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, says investigators have yet to find evidence of fraud in the multi-faceted and complex investigation.

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