News Americas, HOUSTON, Texas, Fri. Feb. 17, 2012: The former Sir R. Allen Stanford, the man U.S. federal prosecutors accuse of a $7 billion investor scam through certificates of deposit in an offshore bank, saw his adopted country of Antigua and Barbuda as a “crown jewel.”
The disclosure came from a lawyer and former U.S. Customs Agent Thursday, who testified in defense of Stanford. The defense opened its case yesterday, a day after the prosecution rested, and called its first of 27 witnesses, Patrick O’Brien, to the stand.
O’Brien served with Stanford during the late 1990s on a committee charged with reforming banking laws in the Caribbean nation of Antigua, where Stanford owned the largest bank.
O’Brien told jurors and the court that Stanford wanted to make Antigua the “crown jewel” among Caribbean nations for providing financial services and even loaned the island’s government the money to fund the committee.
He said the vision and effort yielded new laws and a new regulatory body in Antigua, and Stanford was named to its board even though he owned an institution it was charged with overseeing.
O’Brien painted a different picture of the prosecution witness, Althea Crick, who was executive director of the new agency. Crick in her testimony had said that his position on the board allowed him to impede efforts to regulate his bank.
But O’Brien said it was Crick who obstructed reform efforts and resisted sharing agency documents with U.S. authorities.
He said the banking law revisions were intended to increase the transparency of bank ownership while maintaining the confidentiality about depositors’ identities and accounts that is a key attraction of offshore institutions.
Lloyd Harrell, a retired FBI agent and private investigator, who also testified on behalf of Stanford’s defense Thursday, also dubbed Crick as an obstructionist and said he participated with Stanford in Operation Clean Slate, an offshore bank reform effort.
It is unclear whether Stanford himself will take the stand. A 14-count indictment alleges that Stanford defrauded clients who invested in certificates of deposit issued by the bank, marketing them as conservative investments when the funds really went to Stanford’s luxurious lifestyle and speculative business ventures. Stanford, the once flamboyant billionaire and cricket entrepreneur, has insisted he is innocent of all charges.
Antigua ranks 57th in the world on the overall scale of ease of doing business with a GDP as of last year of $1.734 billion. Tourism continues to dominate Antigua and Barbuda’s economy, accounting for nearly 60 percent of GDP and 40 percent of investment.