Financier and cricket mogul Allen Stanford has been found guilty by a court in Houston, Texas, yesterday, of running a $7 billion Ponzi scheme. Stanford, 61, was convicted on 13 of the 14 charges. He had pleaded not guilty to defrauding some 30,000 investors with bogus investments through his Stanford International Bank in Antigua to fund a lavish lifestyle.
He faces a sentence of up to 20 years in prison for the most serious charge. However, the judge will have to decide whether the sentences should run consecutively. The jury of eight men and four women found him not guilty of one charge of wire fraud. Stanford looked down as the guilty verdicts were announced, and one of his daughters started crying. The same jury will now deliberate in a brief civil trial as prosecutors seek to seize funds from more than 30 Stanford bank accounts worldwide.
One of Stanford's lawyers, Ali Fazel, told Associated Press he was "disappointed in the outcome", adding: "We expect to appeal.'' Stanford's defence was based on blaming a former chief financial officer, James Davis, and arguing that most of the money was lost by court-appointed receivers following the bank's seizure. Prosecutors said Stanford's bogus certificates of deposit had promised artificially high returns to fund his lavish lifestyle over a 20-year period.
They said Stanford had told depositors in more than 100 countries that their money was safely invested in stocks and securities. However, it was in reality being transferred to his businesses and personal account. Davis, who had earlier pleaded guilty to fraud as part of a deal with prosecutors, testified he had worked with Stanford to falsify records. Stanford did not take the stand during the six-week trial.
Stanford was the organiser of the money-spinning Stanford Twenty20 cricket tournament in the West Indies in 2008. Forbes Magazine listed him as the 605th richest man in the world in 2006. He has spent three years in detention after being denied bail. Stanford's trial was delayed after he was involved in a prison fight in September 2009 and developed an addiction to an anti-anxiety drug. But in December 2011 he was declared fit to stand trial.
What is a Ponzi scheme?
• The fraud was named after Italian immigrant Carlos (Charles) Ponzi who set up schemes in Boston and Florida in the 1920s.
• Criminals offer investors high returns over a short period of time.
• Some of that money pays fake returns to other investors.
• The rest of the money is used to fund the lifestyles of the criminals.