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Business

Financier Allen Stanford denies fraud charges

Latest update : 2009-04-07

Texas billionaire Allen Stanford, accused of fraud worth over nine billion dollars, vehemently denied all wrongdoing in his first televised interview broadcast on Monday, in which he appeared highly emotional.

AFP - Disgraced financier Allen Stanford cried, threatened and denied any wrongdoing in his first interview, to be broadcast late Monday, since being accused of masterminding a 9.2-billion-dollar fraud.

"I would die and go to hell if it's a Ponzi scheme," the wealthy cricket mogul told ABC News, according to excerpts released by the network.

"Baloney. Baloney.... It's not a Ponzi scheme. If it was a Ponzi scheme, why are they finding billions and billions of dollars all over the place?"

The Texas billionaire's assets, along with those of his various financial groups, are frozen pending the outcome of a civil lawsuit in which he is accused of running "a massive Ponzi scheme," a pyramid scheme in which new investors' money is stolen to pay profits to existing clients.

Securities officials accuse Stanford of lying to investors about the safety and real returns of eight billion dollars in "certificates of deposits" and 1.2 billion dollars in mutual funds.

In February, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) accused Stanford of perpetrating "a fraud of shocking magnitude that has spread its tentacles throughout the world," by luring investors with "improbable and unsubstantiated" returns.

Stanford said he is forming a legal team to fight an indictment by a federal grand jury he expects to come in the next two weeks.

A senior official told ABC the case was "moving rapidly," although a Justice Department spokesperson declined to comment.

The network said Stanford was "near tears" throughout the interview and cried at times as he explained how the SEC's action had robbed him of his title as 405th wealthiest person in the world by Forbes magazine.

"I'm the maverick rich Texan where they can put the moose head on the wall. And that's the only reason they went after me," Stanford said. "I'm fighting for my survival and for my integrity."

Several governments have seized Stanford banks and frozen their assets with concern mounting that the global reach of his banking operations could complicate the return of an estimated 50 billion dollars in assets belonging to an estimated 50,000 clients in 140 countries.

His case was the highest-profile alleged fraud scheme to emerge since federal authorities charged Wall Street financier Bernard Madoff with carrying out a 50-billion-dollar Ponzi scheme in December.

"Bullshit. That's bullshit," Stanford said when asked about comparisons between his financial empire and Madoff's. "It makes me madder than hell and it touches the core of my soul."

When asked about an ABC report that he was under investigation for links to alleged money laundering for a Mexican drug cartel, Stanford strongly denied the charges and threatened his interviewer.

"If you say it to my face again, I will punch you in the mouth," he said before toning down.

"No, I'm not going to punch you in the mouth. But I'm just saying that's an absolutely, absolutely ludicrous thing to say. Anybody who knows me knows that's the case."

But Stanford acknowledged that the government found and seized three million dollars in drug money at his bank several years ago, as well as other suspect money in larger banks.

"Any bank, any organization, financial organization the size we are, you cannot be sure, a hundred percent sure that every customer you have is clean," he said.

Date created : 2009-04-07

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