Antigua PM seeks to help recover Stanford funds

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By ANIKA KENTISH, Associated Press

ST JOHN'S, Antigua (AP) — Antigua's prime minister has pledged to work with other agencies to try to help recover money that victims across the globe lost to convicted Texas tycoon R. Allen Stanford through his bank based on the Caribbean island.

Baldwin Spencer did not give details of that cooperation when he spoke briefly to The Associated Press after a U.S. federal court jury in Texas convicted Stanford Tuesday on 13 of 14 charges, including conspiracy, wire and mail fraud.

Prosecutors say the financier used his Stanford International Bank to swindle investors out of more than $7 billion, using the money to fund a string of failed businesses, to bribe regulators and pay for luxuries such as yachts and private jets. His attorneys portrayed Stanford as a visionary entrepreneur who made money for investors and conducted legitimate business deals.

Spencer said he feels justice was served with the U.S. verdict, but said it "doesn't bring any real joy" because he fears the verdict could provide more fuel to a U.S. victims' coalition that has promoted a boycott if Antigua.

The group has sometimes set up booths at travel shows to urge vacationers to avoid the tourism-dependent island.

"This is a very unfair campaign," he said. "This country was made out as a country that encouraged and gave sustenance, if you like, to such type of developments, and that clearly was not the case in my view."

Spencer did not mention the case of Leroy King, the former director of Antigua's Financial Services Regulatory Commission, who has been indicted in the U.S. on charges of accepting bribes to ignore irregularities in Stanford's financial empire and of writing false and misleading letters to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

An Antigua judge recently upheld a decision that would allow King to be extradited to the U.S., but Spencer has not said whether he will sign the extradition order. King was removed from his post after the scandal broke around Stanford, who was once the largest private employer in Antigua with 800 workers. He owned a cricket stadium, a restaurant, an airline, a newspaper and a development company.

U.S. prosecutors say they hope to seize about $300 million from more than 30 Stanford-controlled accounts in countries including Switzerland, Britain and Canada through a civil trial, which is being heard by the same jury that convicted the 61-year-old Stanford.

The recovery process has been complicated by conflicts between authorities in securing Stanford's assets, which are scattered across several countries.

U.S. District Judge David Hittner will likely set Stanford's sentencing date after the civil trial.

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