Antigua AG vows to fight Stanford lawsuit

ST. JOHN’S, Antigua: Attorney General Justin Simon says government will vigorously defend itself against a multi-billion-dollar lawsuit filed by Sir Allen Stanford’s investors.

A group of seven investors from the United States and Latin America filed a class action lawsuit on Monday claiming that the Government of Antigua and Barbuda was Sir Allen’s “partner in crime”.

They said some of the US$8 billion which the financier allegedly swindled from them and other investors was used in the development and operation of the V.C. Bird International Airport; developing the new hospital, Mount St John’s Medical Centre; writing off government debt; and giving loans to government.

“Antigua is sovereign, but not above the law. It became a full partner in Stanford’s fraud and reaped enormous financial benefits from the scheme. Stanford stuffed Antigua’s coffers and its officials’ pockets with money stolen from unsuspecting customers throughout the United States, Canada, Central America, South America, and elsewhere,” read the complaint filed in a U.S. court in Houston, Texas.

The Stanford International Bank (SIB) investors want at least US$8 billion in damages – the amount Stanford is accused of stealing from investors. However, U.S. racketeering law entitles them to seek three times the amount of actual losses.

Simon said the suit “comes as a surprise and has serious implications for the country”.

“The government will certainly have to defend the suit wholly. And we expect the high officials of the (Antigua) Labour Party government, under whose administration Stanford purchased Crown lands and obtained Antigua and Barbuda citizenship, will provide as much assistance as possible in our legal fight to defend this country’s integrity,” Simon said.

In response, Antigua Labour Party (ALP) Chairman and Deputy Political Leader Gaston Browne said this is not the time to point fingers and “try to score cheap, political points”. Browne said his party was willing to put aside political differences to work with the United Progressive Party administration to fight the lawsuit.

The Stanford Victims Coalition (SVC), an international advocacy group formed after the collapse of Stanford’s empire, said the lawsuit was a message to the government of Antigua and Barbuda that it would be held accountable for trying “to turn a blind eye to the investors from around the world who have been devastated by this alleged crime”.

“Stanford’s victims do realize Antigua doesn’t have US$24 billion, but that is where our political efforts come in. The U.S., along with the governments of the other 60 countries with citizens who are victims of the alleged Stanford fraud, have the ability to put together a recovery fund for Antigua to restitute Stanford victims, including loans from these governments, the IMF (International Monetary Fund), the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank, CARICOM and other entities.

“It is time for all of our governments to come together and hold Antigua accountable for what has allegedly happened under their watch and force them to address the devastation they have contributed to.

“The SVC Political Action Committee, which represents 20 states in the U.S., is asking U.S. senators and congressmen to utilize all diplomatic means necessary to help repair the damage caused by this massive, ongoing fraud,” the SVC said in a press release.

On Tuesday, U.S. District Judge David Hittner said people who believe they are victims of Stanford’s alleged fraud will have a chance to tell their stories at a court hearing next month.

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