'It's not a Ponzi scheme'

WASHINGTON - DISGRACED financier Allen Stanford cried, threatened and denied any wrongdoing in his first interview, to be broadcast late on Monday, since being accused of masterminding a US$9.2 billion (S$13.8 billion) fraud.

'I would die and go to hell if it's a Ponzi scheme,' the wealthy cricket mogul told ABC News, according to excerpts released by the network.

'Baloney. Baloney.... It's not a Ponzi scheme. If it was a Ponzi scheme, why are they finding billions and billions of dollars all over the place?'

The Texas billionaire's assets, along with those of his various financial groups, are frozen pending the outcome of a civil lawsuit in which he is accused of running 'a massive Ponzi scheme,' a pyramid scheme in which new investors' money is stolen to pay profits to existing clients.

Securities officials accuse Stanford of lying to investors about the safety and real returns of US$8 billion in 'certificates of deposits' and US$1.2 billion in mutual funds.

In February, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) accused Stanford of perpetrating 'a fraud of shocking magnitude that has spread its tentacles throughout the world,' by luring investors with 'improbable and unsubstantiated' returns.

Stanford said he is forming a legal team to fight an indictment by a federal grand jury he expects to come in the next two weeks.

A senior official told ABC the case was 'moving rapidly,' although a Justice Department spokesperson declined to comment.

The network said Stanford was 'near tears' throughout the interview and cried at times as he explained how the SEC's action had robbed him of his title as 405th wealthiest person in the world by Forbes magazine.

'I'm the maverick rich Texan where they can put the moose head on the wall. And that's the only reason they went after me,' Stanford said. 'I'm fighting for my survival and for my integrity.'

Several governments have seized Stanford banks and frozen their assets with concern mounting that the global reach of his banking operations could complicate the return of an estimated US$50 billion in assets belonging to an estimated 50,000 clients in 140 countries. -- AFP


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