Texan cricket impresario Allen Stanford convicted of $7m fraud

Mar 7, 2012

Billionaire's fall from grace ends at a court in Texas where he now faces a long jail sentence

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THE MAN who promised to shake up the "old farts" in English cricket was convicted in Houston yesterday of running a $7 billion fraudulent Ponzi scheme. It marks the end of a spectacular fall from grace for Allen Stanford, once one of the richest men in the world.

Four years ago, Texan billionaire Stanford landed his helicopter on the sacred turf at Lord's Cricket Ground to be greeted by Sir Vivian Richards, Sir Garfield Sobers and Curtly Ambrose. The trio posed in front of a chest said to contain $20 million and announced a series of winner-takes-all Twenty-20 cricket matches that would inject some "Premier League bling" into the sport.

The Daily Telegraph reported that Stanford flew back to Antigua "bearing a grin as wide as his bank balance. He alone controls the world-wide television rights."

Four months later, on November 1, 2008, at the Stanford Cricket Ground in Antigua, an England side that included Stuart Broad, Andrew Flintoff and Kevin Pietersen lost the $20m match to the Stanford Superstars, with Chris Gayle hitting a respectable 65 for the victors. Stanford himself was not so respectable: a number of England players complained after he was filmed flirting with their wives, and the billionaire later apologised for his behaviour.

The matches, greeted with scorn by purists, were hugely popular in the West Indies, but the tournament collapsed following allegations of fraud brought against Stanford in February 2009. The accusations were to do with a Ponzi scheme he had been running at Stanford Financial Group.

Stanford disappeared for two days, eventually handing himself in to prosecutors after trying unsuccessfully to book a private jet to take him to Antigua, where he owned (along with the cricket ground) a newspaper, and where he was made Knight Commander in 2006. That honour has now been revoked.

Following his conviction yesterday, The Guardian reports that Stanford faces up to 20 years in prison when he is sentenced. The man who was listed in Forbes magazine as the 205th richest American in 2008 is currently being held in the Federal Detention Center in Houston.

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$7 million in the headline; $7 billion in the first par - that's deflation for you!