(Jamaica Observer) A group of 10 United States Congress members wants to find out whether the Antigua & Barbuda Government breached international treaties in the entire saga that led to the fraud conviction of Texan billionaire R Allen Stanford.
The legislators from seven states have requested a Congressional hearing to investigate the Government, led for most of Stanford’s time doing business on the island by former Prime Minister Lester Bird, and whether it played a role in the US$7.2 billion Stanford Financial Group Ponzi scheme.
According to a news release from a group calling itself the Stanford Victims Coalition (SVC), the US House Committee on Foreign Affairs Chairman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen is being asked to hold the hearing.
“Eighteen US Representatives from nine states recently joined House Resolution 507 expressing the sense of the House of Representatives that the ‘Government of Antigua and Barbuda has committed numerous acts against the interests of United States citizens and operated the financial sector and judicial system of Antigua and Barbuda in a manner that is manifestly contrary to the public policy of the United States’,” the news release said.
Led by Representative Mike Coffman, the resolution was referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs’ Subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation and Trade, and the Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere. The letter sent to Ros-Lehtinen seeks a joint hearing of both subcommittees, and urges a prompt response as the actions cited in the letter, the SVC said, “continue to harm” the constituents of the resolution’s co-sponsors.
“While the resolution focuses primarily on the actions of the Government of Antigua & Barbuda to challenge the authority of the US District Court and the Department of Justice in the aftermath of the Stanford Financial Group fraud, it also cites the illegal expropriation of US citizen-owned Half Moon Bay, a posh resort on the island’s east coast,” the news release said.
According to the SVC, the members of Congress said they were “especially alarmed that the Stanford case is not the first instance in which the Government of Antigua and Barbuda has illegally seized assets belonging to US citizens”.
“The 2007 expropriation of Half Moon Bay, owned by 12 US citizens, was recently cited in the Ninth Report to Congress on the Operation of the Caribbean Basin Economic Recovery Act (December 31, 2011). In that report, the Office of the United States Trade Representative specifically referenced the Government of Antigua and Barbuda’s failure to meet the requirements specified in the United States Caribbean Basin Trade Partnership Act.”
A jury in Houston, Texas recently found Stanford guilty of 13 of 14 criminal counts brought by the US Department of Justice, and subsequently approved the forfeiture of US$330 million held in Stanford-owned bank accounts in the UK, Switzerland and Canada.
The release quoted Angela Shaw, the director and founder of the SVC, as saying that the former Antigua & Barbuda Government acted as Stanford’s business partner, “and allowed him to operate above the law for two decades as he stole from thousands of innocent investors from around the world”.
The SVC describes itself as a non-profit advocacy group for the victims of the Stanford Financial Group Ponzi scheme.