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Stanford in court over $8bn fraud
Texas billionaire appears in Virginia court on fraud and obstruction charges.
Last Modified: 19 Jun 2009 20:28 GMT
Stanford has been accused of selling certificates
of deposit with unusually high returns [AFP]

Texas billionaire Allen Stanford has appeared in a US court charged with 21 counts of fraud and obstruction over what US prosecutors say was an $8 billion scheme to defraud investors.

Stanford, who is charged along with three executives from his Antigua bank and an Antigua regulator, told the court he understood the nature of the charges against him and was ordered to be detained.

The 59-year-old, who denies any wrongdoing, had surrendered to FBI agents in the US state of Virginia on Thursday.

If convicted of all charges, Stanford could face as much as 250 years in prison, officials said.

A more important court hearing will come at a later hearing in Houston, Texas, when Stanford will formally enter a plea to the charges.

Robert Gibbs, the White House spokesman, said on Friday the indictments were in response to the alleged "outsized greed" that had robbed millions of people of their savings and created "part of a culture that led us to parts of the economic disaster that we've seen in this country".

However Dick DeGuerin, Stanford's lawyer, said his client was "confident that a fair jury will find him not guilty of any criminal wrongdoing."

'Massive Ponzi scheme'

The indictment charges Stanford and other executives at his Stanford Financial Group of being responsible for "the movement of millions of dollars of fraudulently obtained investors' funds from and among bank accounts".

US authorities allege in the indictment that the firm would give money to some investors "to perpetuate the false appearance that [Stanford's business] was financially sound."

The charges related to an alleged scam dating back to September 1999 which continued until about February 17 this year, when Stanford's banking empire collapsed.

A grand jury in Houston, Texas has been investigating Stanford Financial Group, whose headquarters in the city were raided in February by federal authorities when the sprawling financial empire collapsed.

The company's assets were also frozen, along with the flamboyant cricket mogul's personal accounts.

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has charged that Stanford operated a "massive Ponzi scheme" by paying investors returns on deposit certificates using money from other investors rather than any investment gains.

Source:
Agencies
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