Houston (Texas): Jan 24, 2012
Jury selection began Monday in the trial of the fallen financier and cricket mogul Allen Stanford, accused of running a $7 billion Ponzi scheme, according to an attorney for the firm representing him.
The Houston Chronicle reported that 80 potential jurors were interviewed Monday, and that the selection would continue on Tuesday.
Stanford, 61, has spent three years since his arrest in a federal prison in Houston, and the mustachioed ex-tycoon may give evidence in a case watched closely by myriad investors who still don't know if they will get any of their money back.
Stanford has pleaded not guilty to a revised 14-count federal indictment accusing him of bilking approximately 30,000 investors from over 100 countries through bogus investments with Stanford International Bank, based in Antigua.
As a dual citizen of the United States and the Caribbean country of Antigua and Barbuda, Stanford was known for conspicuous largesse, especially on the two islands, where he was knighted.
In the West Indies he created the Stanford 20/20 Cricket tournament which, in 2008, captured a global television audience of 300 million.
But his personal fiefdom began to crumble when it attracted scrutiny from US financial regulators and he was charged by the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) with fraud in February 2009.
According to the indictment, Stanford "perpetrated a scheme to defraud investors who purchased SIB (certificates of deposit) of billions of dollars by soliciting funds under false pretenses."
He then failed to invest those funds as promised, misappropriated money for personal use, created and disseminated false and fraudulent accounts to falsely show investors how their funds had been invested, and funneled bribes to Antiguan regulators to conceal the scheme, said prosecutors.
Stanford was arrested in June 2009 outside his girlfriend's home in the US state of Virginia.
In 2006, Forbes Magazine ranked Stanford as the 605th richest person in the world, with a fortune of $2.2 billion. After most of those funds were frozen by the courts, Stanford was forced to accept appointed counsel. (AFP)