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US agents arrest Stanford executive
FBI says financial group's chief investment officer obstructed fraud investigation.
Last Modified: 27 Feb 2009 07:39 GMT
Several governments have already seized Stanford banks and frozen their assets [AFP]

FBI agents in the US have arrested the chief investment executive of the troubled Stanford Financial Group, accusing her of obstructing a fraud investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

Laura Pendergest-Holt is due to appear in a federal court on Friday, US justice department officials said.

The SEC has been investigating allegations of an $8bn investment fraud involving the financial group of Allen Stanford, a Texan billionaire.

The SEC has charged Stanford with "a fraud of shocking magnitude", accusing him of luring investors with promises of improbable and unsubstantiated high returns on certificates of deposit and other investments.

Stanford, a wealthy cricket impresario who lives most of the year in the Caribbean, has a personal fortune estimated by Forbes magazine at $2.2bn.

The government alleged in a federal complaint that Pendergest-Holt obstructed the investigation.

The complaint said that she "made several affirmative misrepresentations to the SEC" and failed to reveal to investigators that she was a member of Stanford International Bank's investment committee.

Bank properties seized

Brent Baker, Pendergest-Holt's lawyer, said his client was "looking forward to working with the government to get all the facts out and put this behind her".

Several governments have seized Stanford bank properties and frozen the group's assets as concern grows that the global reach of Stanford's banking operations could complicate the return of $50bn in assets belonging to at least 50,000 clients in 140 countries.

With many of Stanford's operations now in receivership it could be weeks or even months before investors and customers find out if they will be able to recover their savings and access the funds.

Pension fund's loss

In another development, Bharrat Jagdeo, the president of Guyana, said on Thursday that one of his country's pension funds lost $5.5 million deposited in Stanford International Bank.

He said that the Hand-in-Hand Trust Company, based in Houston, Texas, had invested $4 million in Certificates of Deposits on which SIB was ostensibly offering lucrative interest-rates, and $1.5 million in pension funds.

Jagdeo said that the $5.5 million amounted to nine per cent of Hand-in-Hand Trust Company's assets.

Stanford Financials customers would be unable to sell securities until the company's assets are accounted for.

Stanford Financials receiver, lawyer Ralph Janvey, said customers would be unable to make payments or transfers because the accounts have been frozen for the foreseeable future.

Source:
Agencies
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