London: Allen Stanford, the disgraced Texan financier who came to embody English cricket`s most embarrassing alliance, has been sentenced to 110 years in jail for one of the biggest frauds in history. He was convicted in March on 13 of 14 charges of defrauding investors of more than $7 billion (£4.5 billion).
Stanford was hailed as cricket`s American sugar daddy when he bankrolled an international cricket tournament in Antigua that promised to transform cricket finances in England and West Indies and, in the eyes of ECB executives, provide a rival to the burgeoning Indian Premier League.
But his financial empire collapsed under an investigation by United States regulators. Since his arrest in 2009, he has spent three years in jail without bail.
Stanford, whose trial was delayed on health grounds after he was beaten up by prison inmates, has always denied his guilt and told the District Judge David Hittner at his sentencing hearing: "I did not defraud anybody".
Stanford`s statement lasted around 40 minutes as he stuck to his claim that he did not run a Ponzi scheme - a fraudulent investment operation that pays returns to its investors from their own money or the money paid by subsequent investors, rather than from profit earned by the individual or organisation - and that his financial affairs only collapsed once investigations into his affairs became known.
He told the judge: "I`m not here to ask for sympathy or forgiveness or to throw myself at your mercy. I did not run a Ponzi scheme. I didn`t defraud anybody."
Prosecutors had asked for a 230-year sentence, with defence lawyers arguing for a lenient term of 44 months.
It was all a world away from the night in 2008 that England and West Indies fought out a Twenty20 match in Antigua for a winner-takes-all prize of £20m. Stanford socialised in a touchy-feely fashion with England players` wives, waved to the crowds, entered the dressing rooms at will, and finished the night with what was virtually an impromptu cabaret.
The deal had been publicised in ostentatious style as Stanford was allowed to land his private helicopter on the outfield at Lord`s, after which he presented a Perspex box filled with $20 million in prize money in front of smiling ECB officials.
Stanford signed a five year deal with the ECB worth $100 million in total, an episode from which some believe English cricket has never entirely recovered. But financial experts have repeatedly suggested that his real victims are the investors, whose estimates suggest have received back about 5% of their investment. Cricket, presenting itself as victims in a highly-complex case, has not returned a penny.
In Antigua, where financial regulation was relatively lax, Stanford had a private terminal at the airport, was one of its biggest employers on the island and was said to be worth more than Antigua`s GDP. He was knighted in 2006 but after the extent of his fraud was revealed he was stripped of the title.
BDST: 1339 HRS, June 15, 2012
Chanchal Ghosh, Newsroom Editor