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Stanford facing decades in jail

Texas tycoon Allen Stanford spent more than 20 years charming investors, who handed him billions of dollars they had spent their lives accumulating through hard work and saving.

Stanford promised them safe investments that would help fulfil their dreams of being able to retire comfortably or pay their children's college tuition. All the while, he was pulling their money out of his Caribbean bank to pay for a string of failed businesses and a jet-setting lifestyle.

Stanford, once considered one of the wealthiest people in the US, with a financial empire that spanned the Americas, was convicted on charges he swindled investors out of more than seven billion US dollars (£4.5 billion).

Prosecutors said his business acumen was nothing more than an old-fashioned pyramid scheme, and jurors convicted him on 13 of 14 charges, including conspiracy, wire and mail fraud. He was acquitted on a single count of wire fraud that accused him of bribing a regulator with Super Bowl tickets.

Stanford looked down when the verdict was read in federal court in Houston, where his financial empire was based. His mother and daughters hugged one another, and one of his daughters started crying. "We are disappointed in the outcome. We expect to appeal," Stanford lawyer Ali Fazel said after the hearing. He said he could not comment further because of a gag order US District Judge David Hittner placed on lawyers in the case.

Prosecutors and Stanford's relatives declined to comment on the verdict, but former investor Cassie Wilkinson found comfort in it. "As an investor, you have to doubt whether or not you were stupid or just taken advantage of. This relieves that doubt. It's a vindication," said Ms Wilkinson, 62, who lives in Houston. She declined to say how much money she and her husband lost.

A civil trial in which prosecutors hope to seize about 300 million US dollars from more than 30 Stanford-controlled accounts in countries including Switzerland, Britain and Canada started later before the same jury and is due to continue.

Mr Hittner will likely set Stanford's sentencing date after the civil trial, which could last as little as a full day.

Three other former Stanford executives are scheduled for trial in September. A former Antiguan financial regulator accused of accepting bribes from Stanford also was indicted and awaits extradition to the US.

Stanford, the largest private employer on Antigua, was widely known as "Sir Allen" after being knighted by the island nation's government. He became known in the UK for his cricket-related activities.


From Belfast Telegraph