How the law finally caught up with Florian Homm

After years on the run, rogue financier Florian Homm's life as a fugitive came to a dramatic end in Florence's Uffizi gallery.

Even before he disappeared over five years ago leaving a $200m trail of investors' losses behind him the German hedge-fund manager they called "the steamroller" had a flair for drama.

How fitting then, says David Randall in The Independent, that Florian Homm was arrested last weekend in Florence's Uffizi gallery: a memorable end to his career as "one of the world's most wanted fugitive financiers".

American officials have charged Homm with orchestrating a share manipulation scheme while running his $2bn fund Absolute Capital Management. Homm denies fraud, arguing he has always acted in good faith. If convicted, he faces up to 75 years in prison.

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Having survived several attempts on his life while on the run (one revenge-driven investor reportedly put a €1.5m price on his head), Homm, 53, might count himself lucky that it was the Feds who found him first, says The New York Times.

After spending most of his time living under an assumed name in Colombia, his convoluted security precautions verged on the paranoid when he briefly emerged in Paris last year to promote his autobiography, Rogue Financier: The Adventures of an Estranged Capitalist (see below).

The book is a treasure trove detailing, among many other adventures, how Homm planned the flight from his Majorcan villa in September 2007 with "Prussian precision" and $500,000 stuffed in his Calvin Klein underpants.

A giant of a man at 6ft 7in, Homm grew up in Germany and moved to the US as a "talented basketball player", says the FT. He took an MBA at Harvard. After a stint at Fidelity, he founded Value Management & Research. He chose the name because "it sounded virtuous... and trustworthy. In short, all the things I was not."

There followed "two decades of harum-scarum financial adventures", ranging from the acquisition of German football club Borussia Dortmund, to riding the hedge-fund bull market of the early 2000s.

Homm revelled in his notoriety as Germany's "number one locust", regularly appearing on chat shows with his trademark cigar. As the threat of lawsuits piled up, he sought immunity from prosecution by taking a post as a Liberian diplomat at Unesco, a UN agency.

Behind the scenes, Homm's life was unravelling. His neglected wife and children walked out, says Bloomberg. Then, in 2006, a whistleblower claimed he had cross-traded US penny stocks between his company's funds "to boost the value of otherwise illiquid securities" and ramp up Absolute's shares.

Within the year, Homm had resigned, dumping his shares "in the middle of the night" and inflicting devastating losses on fellow investors.

Despite secreting away some of his $400m fortune, Homm pleads (relative) penury. He's down to his last $10m, having himself been skewered by Bernie Madoff's Ponzi scheme. "Irony", he writes, "can sometimes be brutally vengeful."

Homm's classic, very funny book

Homm must be cursing the day he decided to take an art trip to Florence. Had he stayed in Germany, says Edvard Pettersson on Bloomberg, he'd still be a free man.

Homm was convicted there of a minor trading violation in 2004 and received a suspended fine the lowest sentence possible. Since then, German prosecutors have been off his case. And since "the German constitution bars the extradition of citizens to countries outside the EU", he'd have remained beyond the long arm of US law.

Homm's reappearance, and subsequent arrest, is nonetheless a symbolic moment for the Germans, says Jack Ewing in The New York Times. It gives the country "something its financial crisis narrative has lacked so far" an individual who stands as "a personal symbol of greed and hubris".

Homm might deny the charges against him. But he's big on contrition, expressing regret "for having an under-developed sense of scruple, neglecting his children and generally behaving like a jerk".

In Rogue Financier, Homm credits his transformation, from "anti-Christ financier" to upright moral citizen to the combined influence of some Latin American revolutionaries who gave him a rosary and bible and a chance meeting with Howard Marks, a former drug smuggler, who proved inspirational in the art of "distancing himself from his ego and vanity".

It's great stuff, says Philip Delves Broughton in the FT. "His book is ribald, self-aggrandising, despicable at times and at others very funny." It's also shot through with entertaining assaults on the financial industry.

While Homm admires the principles of value investing, he finds those who practice it "excruciating company". He also castigates institutional investors for "listening to the lies of corporate executives". Often "so outlandish it strains credulity", Rogue Financier nonetheless has "the makings of a classic".