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Stanford pleads not guilty to fraud
US billionaire in a Texan court on fraud and obstruction charges.
Last Modified: 25 Jun 2009 17:30 GMT

Stanford was arrested in the US state of Virginia
last week on the charges [Reuters]

Allen Stanford, the US billionaire, has pleaded not guilty to 21 counts of fraud and conspiracy charges over an alleged $7bn investment scam.

Stanford, who appeared in a court in Houston, Texas, on Thursday wearing handcuffs, leg chains and an orange jumpsuit, said "not guilty, your honour" when asked by the judge for his plea.

Three other executives from his now closed Houston-based Stanford Financial Group, Laura Pendergest-Holt, Gilberto Lopez and Mark Kuhrt, who were indicted alongside Stanford, also pleaded not guilty in the same court.

The billionaire and cricket mogul, who was arrested in Virginia last week and sent to Texas, will hear later on Thursday whether he will be kept in prison or freed ahead of his trial.

His appearance in court comes as authorities in the Caribbean island of Antigua arrested Leroy King, the country's former chief financial regulator, on US charges relating to the Stanford case.

'Ponzi scheme' claim

The billionaire and his former executives are accused by the US Securities and Exchange Commission of orchestrating a massive fraud by misusing most of the $7 billion they advised clients to invest in certificates of deposit (CDs) from Stanford International Bank, based on Antigua.

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" in a massive Ponzi scheme.

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, which had outposts in Latin America and Europe, 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.

Antigua arrest

Meanwhile authorities in Antigua said on Thursday that King faces US charges including wire fraud, mail fraud, and conspiracy to obstruct an investigation by the SEC.

Prosecutors said that, as administrator of Antigua and Barbuda's Financial
Services Regulatory Commission, King should have caught the fraud.

He is accused of accepting more than $100,000 in bribes to ignore alleged
irregularities.

He was fired by the Antigua and Barbuda's government on Tuesday, and Justin Simon, the attorney general, said that an official request from the US is
pending for his extradition.

Stanford owned several businesses in Antigua, including a newspaper, two restaurants, a development company and the Stanford cricket grounds.

Source:
Agencies
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