It sounds like the Lebanese Madoff studied under Bernie or Charles Ponzi himself when he designed his strategy to scam $1 billion from his fellow countrymen.
Consider a few quotes from a recent NY Times article and you can see the common conditions of successful Ponzi schemes:
First: "He was known as a deeply religious and charitable man, with a gift for winning people’s friendship."
Pyramid schemes often involve "con men" who build confidence by "winning people's friendship" and appearing to be religious. Bernie Madoff also built confidence and many fraudsters appear to be deeply religious.
Next: "But the dollar figures have drawn less attention here than Mr. Ezzedine’s close links with Hezbollah, the militant Shiite movement. Many of the investors — mostly Shiites living in Beirut and southern villages like this one — say those party links were the reason they chose to risk their hard-earned savings with a man who offered 40 and 50 percent profits but never showed any paperwork."
In this quote we see a few more common ingredients including affinity with a group and outrageous returns. Affinity is used since it gives the perpetrator a group of people who trust one another's opinion. Once one person in the group gets excited, the rest follow and seem to turn off any due diligence based on the fact that others in their group are doing it. Bernie's scheme started in among his fellow Jewish friends.
As for the outrageous returns, when will the world learn that "if it seems too good to be true, it is probably a scam!"