26 Jun 2009

Allen Stanford pleads not guilty in fraud case

7:20 am on 26 June 2009

Texas financier Sir Allen Stanford pleaded not guilty on Thursday to 21 criminal charges that he ran a $US7 billion Ponzi scheme.

The once high-flying billionaire and sports promoter has been in federal custody since 18 June, when he surrendered to the FBI in Virginia after a Houston grand jury indicted him on 21 counts of conspiracy, fraud and obstruction of justice.

The judge, Frances Stacy, has yet to rule on whether Sir Allen must remain behind bars while he awaits a trial that is set to start on 25 August. He could face life in prison if convicted of the charges.

The US Securities and Exchange Commission accuses the financier, with the help of executives at his firm and a top Antigua and Barbuda financial regulator, of running a "massive Ponzi scheme" for over a decade that centered on certificates of deposit in his bank in Antigua.

On Thursday, the island nation's authorities arrested the country's former chief financial regulator, Leroy King, after the US government last week filed criminal charges against him.

A related SEC civil case accused him of taking bribes from Sir Allen Stanford in the form of over $US100,000 in cash, Super Bowl tickets and access to the financier's fleet of private aircraft.