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Stanford sentenced to 110 years for $7 bn Ponzi scheme


15 JUN 2012

HOUSTON, Texas (AFP)

Financier and cricket mogul Allen Stanford was sentenced to 110 years in jail for a $7 billion Ponzi scheme, closing the book on the flamboyant ex-tycoon's stunning fall from grace.

"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 lengthy sentence Thursday.

Stanford, 62, 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 bilked by bogus investments with Stanford International Bank.

Investigators could not find 92 percent of the $8 billion the bank said it had in assets and cash reserves.

Prosecutors declined to comment due to a gag order that will remain in effect until other Stanford bank executives face trial. They cited moving testimony, however, in a press release announcing the verdict.

"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."

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.

Allen Stanford arrives for a bond hearing in 2009. The financier and cricket mogul was sentenced to 110 years in jail for a $7 billion Ponzi scheme Thursday, closing the book on the flamboyant ex-tycoon's stunning fall from grace.

"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."

Hittner ordered Stanford to serve the bulk of his penalties consecutively rather than concurrently, which means he will die in jail if he is unable to overturn the conviction at appeal or obtain a pardon.
The judge also imposed a $5.9 billion "personal money judgment" ordering Stanford to repay his criminal proceeds, but found it "impractical" to issue a restitution order, prosecutors said.

Jurors had previously ruled that Stanford should forfeit the $330 million investigators were able to recover from 29 of Stanford's foreign bank accounts.

Badly beaten in a jailhouse brawl, Stanford was temporarily declared unfit for trial after he became addicted to painkillers while also on antidepressants.

He tried to have his case completely dismissed after claiming that the beating and drugs destroyed his memory, but the judge denied the request.

Defense attorneys at trial tried to shift the blame to former chief financial officer James Davis, accusing him of perpetrating the entire fraud while Stanford naively placed his trust in his former college roommate.

They also insisted the bulk of investor money was lost due to mismanagement by court-appointed receivers after the US government seized the bank.

Prosecutors scoffed at the notion, and said Stanford funded his lavish lifestyle by siphoning off $2 billion in investor deposits while pushing "bogus" certificates of deposits that promised artificially high returns based on "safe" investments.

Jurors found the mustachioed Texan guilty of 13 of 14 counts of fraud, conspiracy, money laundering and obstruction of justice in March.

A dual citizen of the United States and the Caribbean country of 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, and rose to global prominence in 2008 by creating the Stanford 20/20 cricket tournament, which captured a television audience of 300 million.

His personal fiefdom soon began to crumble when it attracted scrutiny from financial regulators.

Stanford was charged by the US Securities and Exchange Commission with fraud in February 2009 and arrested a few months later at his girlfriend's home in the eastern state of Virginia.



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