WASHINGTON, February 20 – Texas financier Allen Stanford, accused of a 9.2-billion-dollar fraud that prompted several governments to shut down his banks and seize assets, was tracked down Thursday in the US state of Virginia, the FBI said.
The jet-setting, billionaire cricket impresario’s failure to respond to Tuesday’s charges by the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) fueled speculation that he could be in hiding or on the run.
But the man accused by securities regulators of perpetrating "a fraud of shocking magnitude that has spread its tentacles throughout the world," was not arrested and is not in custody.
"The agents served Mr. Stanford with court orders related to the SEC civil filing against the Stanford Financial Group," Federal Bureau of Investigation spokesman Richard Kolko said in a statement.
The FBI declined to comment on whether Stanford alerted authorities to his whereabouts or was tracked down by other means near Fredericksburg, Virginia, about 50 miles (80 kilometers) south of Washington.
Stanford allegedly ran the most high-profile fraud since Wall Street financier Bernard Madoff was charged in a 50-billion-dollar Ponzi scheme in December.
Washington politicians were meanwhile scrambling to return money given to their campaigns by the Stanford Financial Group (SFG).
The Center for Responsive Politics reported that SFG gave 2.4 million dollars to political parties, committees and more than 100 political candidates — past and present — since 2000, including 31,750 dollars to President Barack Obama when he was a senator, the third ranking recipient among lawmakers.
Obama’s White House rival, Republican Senator John McCain, received 28,150 dollars from SFG, the center said.
Both politicians as well as others vowed to donate the Stanford contributions to charity, according to the Chicago Tribune.
A US judge has frozen the assets of Stanford, his banks and two top executives and investigators are working to track down and seize assets overseas.
That could be complicated by the actions of other governments who have shut down — and in the case of Venezuela seized — his banks, said SEC spokesman John Nester.
"In any investigation involving multiple jurisdictions, there are complications that arise," Nester told AFP.
The Stanford Financial Group claims to serve 50,000 clients in 140 countries with more than 50 billion dollars of assets under management or advisement.
It was particularly successful in Latin America and the Caribbean, where authorities sought to quell fears among depositors who formed long queues outside local branches.
Five Latin American countries have already taken action against companies owned by Stanford, 58.
Faced with a run on a local subsidiary by panicked Venezuelans, Caracas "made a decision to intervene and to immediately sell" financial companies owned by Stanford, Finance Minister Ali Rodriguez said Thursday.
Stanford Bank Venezuela, which has 15 branches in the country, already has received offers from interested parties, he said.
Peru’s securities regulator on Thursday suspended operations for 30 days at the local office of SFG, promising it was working to secure investors’ funds.
In Panama, banking authorities took over "administrative control" of a local Stanford branch after clients made massive withdrawals of deposits Wednesday.
Ecuador suspended a Stanford affiliate from operating in the Quito stock exchange for 30 days or until the company resolves the claims.
The Stanford affiliate in Colombia agreed Wednesday to suspend its activities on the Bogota stock exchange.
On the tax haven island of Antigua, hundreds of people queued up at the Stanford-owned Bank of Antigua to withdraw funds despite authorities’ assurances their accounts were not in danger.
For the past two decades, Stanford has been based in the Caribbean, where he built a reputation as a cricket patron and even gained a knighthood from Antigua.
The scandal has caused huge embarrassment in English cricket with the bosses of the national association facing calls to resign after they signed a now unraveling deal with Stanford to stage matches in Antigua and England.
Stanford was behind the Stanford Super Series Twenty20 competition, which culminated in November 2008 with his team of hand-picked Caribbean Superstars defeating England in a match which netted each player on the winning side one million dollars.