Thursday 22 March 2018

High-flyer US tycoon who 'charmed' €5bn from clients

TEXAS tycoon Allen Stanford spent more than 20 years charming investors, who handed him billions of dollars they had spent their lives accumulating through hard work and saving.

Stanford promised them safe investments that would help fulfil their dreams of being able to retire comfortably or pay their children's college tuition.

All the while, he was pulling their money out of his Caribbean bank to pay for a string of failed businesses and a jet-setting lifestyle.

Stanford, once one of the wealthiest people in the US, has now been convicted of swindling investors out of more than $7bn (€5.3bn).

Prosecutors said his business acumen was nothing more than an old-fashioned pyramid scheme, and jurors convicted him on 13 of 14 charges, including conspiracy, wire and mail fraud. He was acquitted on a single count of wire fraud that accused him of bribing a regulator with Super Bowl tickets.


Speaking after the hearing in Houston, his lawyer Ali Fazel said: "We are disappointed in the outcome. We expect to appeal."

His mother and daughters hugged each other after the verdict.

Prosecutors and Stanford's relatives declined to comment on the verdict, but former investor Cassie Wilkinson was comforted.

"As an investor, you have to doubt whether or not you were stupid or just taken advantage of. This relieves that doubt. It's a vindication," said Ms Wilkinson (62). She declined to say how much money she and her husband lost.

A civil trial in which prosecutors hope to seize about $300m (¤228m) from more than 30 Stanford-controlled accounts in countries including Switzerland, Britain and Canada started later before the same jury and will continue today.


US District Judge David Hittner will likely set Stanford's sentencing date after the civil trial, which could last as little as a day.

The most serious charges against Stanford carry up to 20 years in prison, and if Mr Hittner ordered him to serve his sentences consecutively, the 61-year-old could spend the rest of his life behind bars.

Prosecutors said Stanford used investors' money to fund a string of failed businesses, bribe regulators and pay for luxuries such as yachts and private jets.

His lawyers portrayed Stanford as a visionary entrepreneur who made money for investors and conducted legitimate business deals.

Stanford's net worth was once estimated at more than $2bn (€1.5bn), but now his assets have been seized or frozen.

During the six-week trial, prosecutors presented testimony from ex-employees, emails and financial statements that they said showed how Stanford took billions of dollars over 20 years from his bank on the Caribbean island nation of Antigua.

They said he lied to investors from more than 100 countries, telling them their funds were being safely invested in stocks, bonds and other securities.

The prosecution's star witness - James M. Davis, the former chief financial officer for Stanford's various companies - told jurors he and Stanford worked together to falsify bank records to conceal the fraud.

Three other former Stanford executives are scheduled for trial in September. A former Antiguan financial regulator accused of accepting bribes from Stanford also was indicted and awaits extradition to the US.

Stanford, the largest private employer on Antigua, was widely known as 'Sir Allen' after being knighted by the island nation's government.

He became known in the UK for his cricket-related activities.


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