ST JOHN’S, Antigua – Attorney General Justin Simon and Opposition MP Gaston Browne are among local government officials who responded yesterday afternoon to news of the 110-year prison sentence imposed on former billionaire Allen Stanford.
Neither expressed surprise at the sentence, which extends well into the next century.
Simon felt Stanford’s apparent lack of remorse and refusal to take responsibility throughout his lengthy trial worked against the once flamboyant investor.
“I believe the sentence reflects the fact that Mr Stanford has denied any wrongdoing throughout the entire trial, has not accepted any responsibility in respect of the alleged Ponzi scheme and maintained his innocence not withstanding the overwhelming evidence that was led against him,” the AG said.
Although speaking separately, Browne and Simon concurred that the entire Stanford saga highlighted the need for tighter financial regulator oversight and more thorough execution of due diligence in screening potential investors.
According to Simon, this transformation is already taking place.
“I think government is being extremely careful in terms of investors who make claim to the fact that they are able to deal with substantial investments and developments, and our whole procedure in respect of due diligence on investors has to be more clearly defined and more intensive.”
He said one effect of this enhanced vigilance has been to stir the Financial Services Regulatory Commission (FSRC) into doing “some soul-searching in terms of having conducted an internal investigation.”
He added, “Having had the report, FSRC is now looking at reforming the whole organisational structure, as well as the legislative framework to ensure that what happened in respect of Allen Stanford is not repeated.”
But the AG said he is still “very concerned about the status of the many employees and creditors of the various Stanford companies here in Antigua.”
Simon referred to the fact that Stanford’s girlfriend “Andrea Stoelker has a power-of-attorney from Mr Stanford, which she obtained when he was in confinement up in the States, and on that basis she basically has been running the various companies and obtaining revenue in respect thereof. But I can see nothing to date which clearly indicates that these various ex-employees are going to be compensated in respect of their severance and pension entitlements.”
Repeating that this is a matter of serious concern to him, the attorney general ended by expressing hope that it is a matter which will be addressed shortly.
For his part, ALP deputy leader Gaston Browne recalled that Stanford was already well established in Antigua & Barbuda long before he (Browne) became an elected Member of Parliament and a minister of Government for the first time in 1999.
The MP noted that he was working in the private offshore banking sector when Stanford first came to Antigua and always had misgivings about how the Texan businessman was able to offer such high rates of interest (more than 10 per cent) on his certificates of deposit.
“I couldn’t at the time pinpoint that he was involved in a Ponzi scheme, but we felt that something was wrong,” he said.
Browne agrees that there was inadequate supervision and negligence in due diligence pertaining to Stanford, but he believes much of it was related to a lack of capacity and resources on the part of the individuals and institutions charged with such monitoring.
“I do accept that there may have been some who would have perhaps obstructed the supervision of the (Stanford International) bank, but outside of that, I don’t think we really had the type of sophistication to adequately supervise such an operation.
Browne, who aspires to the leadership of his party and the country, is promising that should he ever attain to the latter, he will ensure that all the required regulations and oversights are in place (and enforced) so that there is no repeat of any debacle remotely resembling that of R Allen Stanford.