Counting the costs

Search on for Stanford as cricket reels under after-effects of the scam

Written by Reuters | London | Published:February 20, 2009 11:46 pm

English county sides may have to consider handing back money received as part of a deal with Texan billionaire Allen Stanford,Hampshire chairman Rod Bransgrove said on Thursday. Each of the first-class county sides in English cricket received 50,000 pounds after last November’s Stanford Super Series. “There may well be a moral issue in receiving the money,” Bransgrove told The Guardian newspaper.

“When you take ill-gotten gains,it leaves an unpleasant taste in the mouth. You have to put it in context; thousands of people could be damaged by the actions of this man if the charges are upheld. I don’t know whether Hampshire can actually give the money back but,if you’re asking whether I feel sullied by receiving it,yes I do,” he said. Stanford and three of his companies were charged by the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) on Tuesday with massive fraud involving a multi-billion dollar investment scheme. He has denied any wrongdoing. The financier had come to prominence in the cricket world following his private Twenty20 competition in the Caribbean and,in particular,the $20 million game in November between England and his own team made up of West Indian players. The whole affair has been deeply embarrassing for English cricket,with prominent critics slamming those who run the sport.

Lancashire chief executive Jim Cumbes agreed with Bransgrove’s position. “If the money has come by dubious means,it’s something to think about. Socially and morally,he’s right,” he said. Durham chief executive David Harker said: “It’s only speculation at the moment but,if it’s proven that the money is ill-gotten,then it’s not something we’d want to be party to.”

Where is Stanford?

The SEC said it did not know where the flamboyant 58-year-old financier and sports entrepreneur was. But CNBC television reported that he tried to hire a private jet to fly from Houston to Antigua,but the jet lessor refused to accept his credit card.

In Miami,the local NBC television station reported that Stanford Group offices there had been raided by federal authorities,a day after a similar raid at Stanford’s US headquarters in Houston. ABC cited authorities as saying Stanford could potentially face criminal charges of money laundering and bribery of foreign officials.

In Colombia,a local affiliate of Stanford halted its activities on that country’s stock exchange. In Ecuador,the local Stanford affiliate was suspended for 30 days from operating in the Quito stock exchange,the bourse said. In Mexico City,some 40,mainly middle-aged and elderly,people waited outside a Stanford office for information. Tempers frayed.

In St John’s and in Caracas,hundreds besieged Stanford banks and offices. “I heard the news and came straight down. We’ve had money here for two years and I want it back,” said Caracas resident Josefina Moreno,whose son had about $10,000 invested. A Venezuelan official estimated that people in that country have invested about $2.5 billion in the bank.

Golf connection

Stanford,who holds dual US-Antiguan citizenship,has donated millions of dollars to US politicians and secured endorsements from sports stars,including golfer Vijay Singh and soccer player Michael Owen.

Singh,wearing a golf shirt with a Stanford logo,said in California that he was surprised by it all. “I really don’t have any comments. He gives a lot to charity there and also to a lot of other places. I hope everything will be okay once they find out what’s going on.”

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