sábado, 16 de junio de 2012

Billionaire Stanford given 110-year jail term over $7bn fraud


A general view of Stanford International Bank on the Caribbean island of Antigua. The bank's founder Allen Stanford has been jailed for 110 years for perpetrating a $7 billion fraud.

Image: Gareth Copley/PA Archive

FORMER TEXAN BILLIONAIRE financier Allen Stanford has been sentenced to 110 years in jail after being convicted of perpetrating a Ponzi scheme worth some $7 billion (€5.5 billion).

A court in Texas was told the 62-year-old had siphoned off around $2 billion in funds deposited by clients, who had been told his investments were safer and more profitable than US government-insured accounts.

The US Securities and Exchange Commission claimed that his Stanford Financial Group had presented hypothetical projections as legitimate past records when trying to secure clients’ investments, misappropriating their funds and falsifying the group’s financial records to cover this up.
Investigators could not find 92 per cent of the $8 billion the bank claimed to command in assets and cash reserves.

“This is one of the most egregious frauds ever presented to a trial jury in federal court,” Judge David Hittner said in handing down the sentence.

Stanford had been convicted in March, and has spent the past three years in jail after being deemed a flight risk. He will likely never taste freedom again.

The sentence will bring some satisfaction – but likely little financial relief – to some 30,000 investors from more than 100 countries who were burned by bogus investments with Stanford’s group.
“This was not a bloodless financial crime carried out on paper,” Angie Shaw, director and founder of the Stanford Victims Coalition, said at the sentencing hearing. “It was and is an inconceivably heinous crime and it has taken a staggering toll on the victims.”

‘Scoundrel’

Jaime Escalona, who represents victims from Latin America, told Stanford he “took advantage of the trust that is placed in US companies and caused losses that prevented families from being able to pay for medical and basic living expenses.”

“You are a dirty, rotten scoundrel,” Escalona added.

In a tearful speech, Stanford showed no remorse and blamed the collapse of his empire on the “Gestapo tactics” of overzealous prosecutors and insisted that his investments would have eventually paid dividends, KHOU news reported.

“I’m not a thief,” Stanford, who did not testify at the trial, told the judge. “I am and will always be at peace with the way I conducted myself.”

A dual citizen of the United States and Antigua and Barbuda, Stanford was known for his largesse, especially on the two paradise islands.

He received a knighthood in 2006 from Antigua, where he was the largest employer, but that knighthood was revoked in 2010 after suspicions of his illicit dealings first came to light.

Stanford rose to global prominence by creating and funding the the Stanford 20/20 cricket tournament between West Indian nations, as well as a ‘Stanford Super Series’ with a total prize fund of $20 million, where the players on the winning team took person prizes of $1 million each.

Both competitions folded after 2008, however, when queries arose about how Stamford was funding the ventures.

Additional reporting by AFP.