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Thursday, August 19, 2010

(Sir) R Allen Stanford – The World’s Biggest Bank Robber

By Ian Moncrief-Scott

When Verity (not her real name) retired she had simple dreams of living in the sun, caring for animals and putting something back into society.

R Allen Stanford, with his many active and passive accomplices, true fellow criminals, calculatingly shattered those dreams.

Indeed, Stanford created Verity’s worst nightmare, which has left her destitute, entirely reliant on family support and needing scraps from kind neighbours to feed her dog.

Pretending his innocence, Stanford languishes in an American prison with room TV, entertainment and exercise, hiring and firing attorneys, with three square meals a day, heat and light paid by the taxpayer.

Meanwhile, Verity desperately worries from where the next meal will come.

So who allowed this tragedy unfold?

As long ago as 2007, Verity, simply asked her bank to transfer her personal funds. These were for her retirement.

This was not an investment in Stanford’s fraudulent Certificates of Deposit but a straightforward, routine, everyday bank to bank SWIFT transfer.

Verity’s bank was Barclays Wealth "the UK's leading wealth manager in terms of assets under management and the largest retail multi-manager.”

The pensioner had worked hard all her life and wanted her savings to be conveniently placed in Stanford International Bank in Antigua, the country she had chosen for her retirement.

She trusted and relied upon Barclays Wealth to safely transfer her entire life savings.

Verity gave her clear instructions in writing as provided by Stanford International Bank.

Substantial monies were to be transferred to HSBC, London, using the SWIFT system - code MIDLGB22XXX for further credit to SIB in Antigua (Sort Code 40-05-15) etc.

However, the Sort Code 40-05-15 is not Stanford International Bank’s but HSBC International Bank London.

HSBC acts as an official correspondent bank for SIB, which is now in receivership.

According to Vantis, the Receiver appointed by the Government of Antigua, her money is not at Stanford International Bank in Antigua at all. It has simply disappeared from the SIB account at HSBC in London.

HSBC contends, in its own remarkable blaze of self-publicity, “We aspire to be one of the world's great specialist banking groups, driven by commitment to our core philosophies and values."

Much has been made of Stanford’s Ponzi Scheme but there has been little focus on the missing bank deposits in Antigua.

Antigua does not have a banking deposit protection scheme so any funds held in or associated with the country, are potentially vulnerable.

Antigua is also irrefutably well-known as a most dubious and corrupt place.

In 2001, with the formation of First Caribbean International Bank, Barclays effectively withdrew its own brand from the region.

Antigua has been the subject of two countrywide Treasury Advisories connected to Stanford and a US Senate report highlighting concerns about its links to correspondent banking.

Described at the time by the U.S. Department of Justice as "the largest case of non-drug-related money laundering every brought to justice", the case was significant enough to warrant inclusion in a report dated February 5, 2001, produced by the Minority Staff of the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, entitled Correspondent Banking: A Gateway to Money Laundering.

So why did Verity wait until 2009 before alerting Barclays that the funds were missing.

The reason for this was because Verity was told by Stanford International Bank that for cost saving purposes it did not issue written account statements but that a Stanford Financial Adviser would telephone her monthly to confirm her standing.

Each month she was assured by SIB Financial Advisers that her account was in good order, which she properly took to mean, held the expected level of funds following the transfer from Barclays Wealth.

During this time Verity had dealings with Kathy Belaziar and Yecella Mondez, at SIB Antigua.

Thus, using this method, the huge banking fraud at Stanford International Bank, Antigua remained concealed from March 2007 to December 2008, until Verity attempted to withdraw her funds.

Who has allowed this to happen?

Unlike the financial regulators, Verity knew nothing of Stanford’s reckless and criminal Ponzi Scheme.

She just needed a safe and convenient bank to hold her retirement savings and trusted the high profile name of Stanford, much endorsed by celebrities, international politicians and world leaders.

Verity, like any of us, relied upon the financial regulators in the United States of America, UK and Antigua.

Meanwhile, Leroy King, the former head of the financial regulatory authority in Antigua, is the subject of a US extradition warrant. This is is not in Antigua’s or, more correctly, certain Antiguan politicians’ interest, that this should ever be fulfilled.

Karyl Van Tassel, FTI Consulting, a forensic accountancy acting for Ralph Janvey, the Receiver appointed by the Court to unravel Stanford’s crimes has proved that billions of dollars destined for his dubious bank in woefully-regulated Antigua, never arrived.

Instead, on Stanford’s instructions billions of dollars (sterling/euros) were transferred from HSBC International London to Stanford’s corporate accounts at Toronto Dominion Bank in Canada, Trustmark National Bank in Mississippi and, mainly, the Bank of Houston.

The position of the victims of Stanford’s crimes suing HSBC and the other banks involved in a class action is even clearer.

They claim that “Upon information and belief, prior to and during their establishment of a correspondent banking relationship with Stanford, HSBC gathered sufficient information concerning Stanford to understand Stanford’s business and, as a result, knew, or should have known, that Stanford was conducting an illegal and fraudulent scheme.

Stanford provided members of the Class (sic the Stanford crime victims) with deposit instructions indicating that they could make deposits in Antigua-based SIBL by wiring funds to HSBC in London. HSBC was aware of these instructions that were provided to members of the Class, and expressly agreed with Stanford to receive wire deposits from members of the Class for further transfer to SIBL in Antigua.

After the establishment of the HSBC-Stanford correspondent bank relationship, members of the Class transferred funds to HSBC with the intent that such funds would be transferred to SIBL in Antigua for deposit there. Upon information and belief, all or substantially all of the funds that members of the class transferred to HSBC, with the intent that such funds would be transferred to SIBL in Antigua for deposit there, were redirected by HSBC, in concert with and/or at the direction of Stanford, to bank accounts in Houston, Texas, and elsewhere, after which such funds were distributed to other Stanford entities, “invested” in Allen Stanford’s private ventures, used to fund Allen Stanford’s lavish lifestyle, and reinvested in the criminal venture to keep the fraudulent scheme in operation.

Based upon the foregoing, and based upon its longstanding correspondent banking relationship with Stanford, HSBC knew, or should have known, that Stanford was conducting an illegal and fraudulent scheme.”

However, this matter is far from just about Stanford.

The role of HSBC and the competence of the international payment agencies and regulators involved must now be questioned.

The question is a simple one:

How did a single shareholder institution with impossible multi-billion dollar yearly growth, with its base in ineptly regulated Antigua, having its accounts passed by a 73 year old from his a terraced house in Harrigey, satisfy the most basic due diligence tests expected by the Wolfsburg and Basel accords for correspondent banking relationships?

Meanwhile, as Verity and her dog go hungry, bankers, politicians, regulators and ombudsmen enjoy their inflation-proof pensions and well-compensated lifestyles.

1 comment:

  1. HSBC acting as a "Correspondent Bank" clearly failed in their "Duty of Care". A cursory look at the checks they are required to do reveals that.

    What kind of checks did HSBC do? did the fact the the accountant for a US 7Billion operation was one old man operating out of an office above a chip shop?

    Did HSBC ignore the fact Stanford had been investigated by Scotland Yard and the FBI, and had his bank in Montserrat closed?