ST. JOHN’S, Antigua, (Reuters) – Antigua and Barbuda’s Senate yesterday approved a government takeover of land owned by Texas billionaire Allen Stanford, accused in an $8 billion securities fraud.
The approval followed passage by the Caribbean nation’s House of Representatives on Thursday of a government motion to take control of more than 250 acres of Stanford property before a U.S. court-appointed receiver seizes it.
The motion, which states the land is “required for a public purpose,” now goes to the governor-general, Louise Lake-Tack, for formal passage into law.
Opposition senators abstained from voting. The opposition had argued that the government should wait to see more evidence of wrongdoing by Stanford and whether U.S. authorities will level criminal charges against him.
The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission last week filed civil fraud charges against Stanford, a 58-year-old financier and sports tycoon. The case rocked Antigua and Barbuda, a twin-island state where he held businesses and properties and is the biggest private investor and employer.
Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer’s government has made clear it wants to seize the Stanford land, which includes plots housing his Antigua-based banks and companies, as well as beachside homes and development properties, to mitigate the impact on the local economy of the fraud scandal.
“We have to give ourselves a bargaining chip, so when the receivers come they have to deal with the government of Antigua and Barbuda,” Spencer told the House of Representatives after it approved the land takeover measure.