20 Feb 2009

Venezuela seizes bank owned by Stanford

9:11 am on 20 February 2009

Venezuela has seized a local bank owned by Sir Allen Stanford to stem massive online withdrawals as the impact of a US fraud case against the Texan billionaire spread through Latin America.

The government of socialist President Hugo Chavez said it would quickly sell Stanford Bank Venezuela, one of the country's smallest commercial banks and that it had already been approached by potential buyers.

The bank's $US288 million of assets represent 0.2% of Venezuela's banking system.

Sir Allen was charged on Tuesday with "massive fraud" related to Stanford International Bank and his Houston-based broker-dealer and investment units.

US authorities accused him of fraudulently selling $US8 billion in certificates of deposit with impossibly high interest rates in a scheme that stretched around the world.

His whereabouts are unknown.

Authorities in five Latin American countries have now taken action against Stanford businesses.

On Thursday, Peru's securities regulator suspended the local operations of the Stanford Financial Group for 30 days.

Panama regulators have taken over a Stanford affiliate there, and Ecuador seized two investment units that handled $92 million in an investment fund, portfolios and trusts.

A local arm of Stanford Financial Group has halted its activities on the stock exchange in Colombia.