US & Canada

Profile: Allen Stanford

Allen Stanford at Lord's [11 June 2008]
Image caption Allen Stanford used his property fortune to invest in sport

Until his arrest and trial on charges of investment fraud, 61-year-old Allen Stanford cut a flamboyant image in the sporting and business worlds.

The broad-shouldered, fifth-generation Texan built his first fortune through Houston property in the 1980s.

At one stage the 6ft 4in (193cm) father-of-six was 205th on the Forbes rich list of Americans, and estimated to be worth $2.2bn (£1.5bn).

In 2006 his love of sport led to the development of his own cricket tournament, with a purpose-built ground in the West Indian island of Antigua.

But the Stanford empire had lowly beginnings during the Great Depression in 1932, when his grandfather Lodis founded the first company in the small Texas town of Mexia.

After making his first fortune in property, Allen Stanford began expanding the family firm.

At its most successful, the Stanford Financial Group, described as a global wealth management company, claimed clients from 140 countries with assets of $50bn (£35bn) under management.

Citizen of Antigua

Stanford rubbed shoulders with some of the world's most prominent business people, politicians and sports stars.

One of the companies and divisions under the Stanford umbrella was the Stanford International Bank, based in Antigua, which was at the centre of the fraud case.

Among the schemes launched before his arrest was a $2bn investment fund earmarked for upscale development projects in the Caribbean, his website said.

Before his arrest Stanford, who separated from his wife Susan, lived in St Croix in the US Virgin Islands. He holds citizenship for Antigua and Barbuda, where he was the largest employer after the government.

Image caption The 2008 Twenty20 competition was Stanford's most high-profile

In 2006, he became the first American to be knighted by the islands - with his earlier citizenship allowing him to call himself Sir Allen. In 2010, the knighthood was revoked.

But he built influence far beyond the world of commerce and finance.

In 2008, he caused controversy by staging a $20m cricket match between England and his own team, the Stanford All Stars, made up of West Indian players.

The controversy was not just contained to the money and the match. Stanford had to apologise to the England players for being over-friendly with some of their wives and girlfriends after pictures showed one of them sitting on his knee during an earlier game.

The Stanford name is also linked with other sports tournaments including golf, tennis, polo and sailing. In addition, he signed endorsement deals with top golfer Vijay Singh and footballer Michael Owen.

Political contributions

Away from the sports field, Stanford used his money to get noticed among the political establishment in Washington.

He personally gave nearly $1m to US politicians from both sides, although mostly to Democrats, according to the Centre for Responsive Politics, a group that tracks campaign spending.

The group says that since 2000, the Stanford Financial Group also contributed $2.4m, through its political action committee and employees.

In addition, it lists more than 100 politicians who, in the past, have received contributions from the Stanford empire, among them US President Barack Obama and his 2008 presidential challenger, John McCain.

Both men since said they would return the funds or donate them to charity, according to reports in the US media.

Stanford was seen giving a hug to the speaker of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, at the Democratic National Convention of 2008, while ABC News reported that former US President Bill Clinton publicly thanked Sir Allen's firm for helping to finance a convention-related forum and party.

The financier said very little when charged with investment fraud by US regulators, the Securities and Exchange Commission, in February 2009.

Documents in the civil court case show Sir Allen pleaded the Fifth Amendment - the right to withhold potentially self-incriminating evidence.

However, in a 2009 interview with ABC he insisted no money was lost by customers dealing with his financial services companies.

"If it was a Ponzi scheme, why are they finding billions and billions of dollars all over the place?" he said at the time.

In June, he turned himself in to the Virginia office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation to answer a criminal fraud indictment.

In March 2012, he was convicted in a Houston court of 13 of the 14 charges. Three months later, he was sentenced to 110 years in prison.

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