Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Feds Investigating Stanford ties to lawmakers: report



Feds investigating Stanford ties to lawmakers: report


Sun, Dec 27 2009


MIAMI (Reuters) - U.S. federal authorities are investigating millions of dollars contributed by fraud suspect Allen Stanford and his staff to U.S. lawmakers in the past decade, the Miami Herald reported on Sunday.


The newspaper said the Justice Department investigation aimed to determine whether the banker received special favors from politicians while he was operating his alleged $7 billion Ponzi scheme centered on fraudulent certificates of deposit issued by his offshore bank in Antigua and Barbuda.


The U.S. Department of Justice said it had no comment on the Herald report.


The newspaper said an e-mail sent to Stanford by Texas Republican Representative Pete Sessions on the day authorities announced fraud charges against the billionaire financier, as well as $2.3 million in contributions he made to Sessions and other U.S. lawmakers, were "part of the government's inquiry."


It said Stanford, who has pleaded not guilty and is awaiting a trial set for January 2011, also spent $5 million on lobbying since 2001. It said he successfully lobbied in 2001 to kill a bill that would have exposed the flow of millions into his secretive offshore bank on the Caribbean island of Antigua.


The following year he helped block legislation that would have led to more government scrutiny of his now disgraced Antigua bank, the Miami Herald said.


Stanford, 59, has been in custody since June 19, when he was indicted on 21 criminal charges related to his alleged fraud. His global banking and securities business was shut down in February when the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filed civil charges that he and others had committed fraud.


The Miami Herald said that on the day federal agents raided Stanford's offices in the United States, February 17, the financier received an e-mail message from Sessions, the chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee.


The newspaper said the message was found on Stanford's computer servers and reads: "I love you and believe in you.


"If you want my ear/voice -- e-mail," the Miami Herald quoted the message as saying, adding it was signed "Pete."


Sessions did not respond to requests for interviews and his press secretary said she had not seen the e-mail and so could not comment on it, the newspaper said.


It said Stanford also funded Caribbean trips for a group of U.S. lawmakers known as the Caribbean Caucus, including Sessions and Democrats Gregory Meeks of New York and Donald Payne of New Jersey.


The newspaper said most of the members of Congress it contacted about their ties to Stanford declined to discuss them, other than to say they had returned the contributions.

Prosecutors say Stanford paid tens of thousands of dollars in bribes for years to a top financial regulator in Antigua and Barbuda to shield his Ponzi scheme from U.S. investigators.


(Additional reporting by Jeremy Pelofsky; Writing by Pascal Fletcher; Editing by Bill Trott)


© Thomson Reuters 2009.

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