Showing posts with label Allen Stanford faces decades behind bars after being convicted of a $7 billion fraud that snared investors in 113 countries. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Allen Stanford faces decades behind bars after being convicted of a $7 billion fraud that snared investors in 113 countries. Show all posts

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

 

A MONTH after Sir Fred Goodwin was stripped of his title for leaving Royal Bank of Scotland shredded, another erstwhile knight of the financial-services realm has been put in his place—this time a jail cell. Allen Stanford faces decades behind bars after being convicted of a $7 billion fraud that snared investors in 113 countries, from Latin America to Libya. When in 2008 the sky fell in on Bernard Madoff, the only fraudster to have taken investors for more, the Texas-born Mr Stanford was still swaggering. He had done so much for Antigua, the Caribbean island where he based his empire, that it made him a Sir. He took to the airwaves to tut-tut rivals who had been felled by subprime mortgages. His star rose further when he sponsored an international cricket tournament. He was said to be worth over $2 billion. He certainly lived like he was. Within a few months, however, the authorities had swooped in, closing his Antigua-based bank and his brokerage operations. Prosecutors accused him of flogging bogus certificates of deposit and raiding the bank, siphoning deposits to a Swiss account used to finance his passion for yachts, jets and islands. His lawyers tried to have him declared incompetent to stand trial, saying a prison beating had led to loss of memory and an addiction to anti-anxiety drugs. When that ruse failed, they argued in court that he had been his group’s visionary, uninvolved in its day-to-day running, even as they claimed the businesses had been viable until they were “disembowelled” upon being seized. Countering this narrative was damning evidence from the prosecution’s star witness, Mr Stanford’s former chief financial officer, who testified that he and his boss had falsified documents and that the firm had presented hypothetical returns as the real thing in client pitches. Others said that, for all his public bravado, he had been aware of a hole in the accounts. When another colleague suggested he raise more money to plug this, he reportedly said: “I’ll go to the Libyans. They love me.” Victims cheered the verdict, but their victory is hollow. Three years on, they are yet to receive a penny from the court-appointed receiver, Ralph Janvey. Of the $216m he had recovered by late last year, more than half had been eaten up by legal and other fees. His team reckons that total recoverable assets may be a mere $500m, or 7% of the account balances shown at the time of Mr Stanford’s arrest (though that could increase if lawsuits seeking $600m from Stanford brokers, customers who extracted more than they paid in and political organisations that received donations from Mr Stanford succeed). Investors also bemoan the hefty cost of litigating jurisdictional issues. Mr Janvey is locked in a fight over how to divide up the estate with a separate receiver in Antigua, who has control over the fraudster’s bank accounts in Switzerland and Britain. America’s Securities and Exchange Commission has backed the victims’ cause, taking the unprecedented step of suing the Securities Investor Protection Corporation after the congressionally-chartered group balked at paying them up to $500,000 each in compensation (on the ground that Stanford’s operations were based offshore). Too little, too late, scream the SEC’s critics. Its district office in Fort Worth, Texas, first concluded that the Caribbean kingpin’s businesses were a Ponzi scheme in 1997, only to be ignored then and several times subsequently by enforcement staff. This story has only one true villain, but many others come out looking bad.

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