Stanford pleads not guilty
TEXAS – Disgraced Texan financier, Allen Stanford, pleaded not guilty to 14 counts of fraud and money laundering as the prosecution opened its case against him, nearly three years after he was accused of defrauding investors of more than seven billion US dollars in a Ponzi scheme out of through his bank in the Caribbean island of Antigua
“Some people trusted Mr. Stanford with their entire life savings,” Gregg Costa, an assistant United States attorney, told the jurors in his opening statement on Tuesday.
“He told them lie after lie after lie. Lying, stealing and bribery: It’s those three things the evidence will show over the next several weeks,” he said, as the prosecution portrayed Stanford, 61 as treating the savings of thousands of investors as his “personal piggy bank” to buy two airlines, build a cricket team and stadium, funnel money to a Swiss bank account and otherwise live a life of luxury in Antigua.
But his defence team said that he never intended to defraud anyone. His attorneys have said they expect him to testify during the trial that Justice David Hittner said could last up to six weeks.
If he is convicted, Stanford could be sentenced to up to 20 years in prison.
At the heart of the prosecution case is the allegation that billions of dollars were missing from the investors’ accounts because Stanford skimmed the money for himself and his private businesses and to offer bribes to an independent auditor
“Basic elementary math is all you need to know,” Costa told the jurors, adding that documents would be provided showing that while Stanford’s bank gave literature promising conservative investments behind the bank’s high-interest certificates of deposit, they were instead placed in risky assets or not invested at all.
The prosecution also said it intends calling James Davis, the former chief financial officer for the accused, who was a witness to the fraud and a subsequent cover-up aimed at thwarting a Securities and Exchange Commission investigation and keeping investors from withdrawing their money.
Costa told jurors they would hear “the ultimate inside story” accusing Stanford, as well as three of his former executives of fabricating company documents and bribed officials in Antigua to cover up their illegal activities.
But Stanford, who once had an estimated net worth of more than two billion US dollars, argues that his businesses were legal.
His defence lawyers say that Stanford’s investors would have been paid if his companies had not been seized by the authorities.
They say investors only lost their money once the US government seized his businesses, destroying their value.
Stanford has been held in custody for two and a half years because of fears he would attempt to flee. (CMC)