Las víctimas olvidadas de Stanford ahora disponible en español

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Friday, February 17, 2012

Stanford defense begins with no hint of whether he'll testify

By Terri Langford
Wednesday, February 15, 2012

HOUSTON - The government rested its case Wednesday afternoon in the trial of accused swindler R. Allen Stanford, and his lawyers began calling witnesses without indicating whether Stanford will testify in his own defense.

The first defense witness, lawyer and former U.S. Customs Agent Patrick O'Brien, said he served with Stanford during the late 1990s on a committee charged with reforming banking laws in the Caribbean nation of Antigua, where Stanford owned the largest bank.

Stanford pushed the effort and wanted to make Antigua the "crown jewel"
among Caribbean nations for providing financial services, O'Brien said.

The effort yielded new laws and a new regulatory body in Antigua, and Stanford was named to its board even though he owned an institution it was charged with overseeing.

Prosecution witness Althea Crick, who was executive director of the new agency, said earlier in Stanford's trial that his position on the board allowed him to impede efforts to regulate his bank.

In her testimony, she compared Stanford to a "rat being put in charge of the cheese."

But O'Brien painted a different picture, saying Crick obstructed reform efforts and resisted sharing agency documents with U.S. authorities.

Wednesday's other defense witness was Lloyd Harrell, a retired FBI agent and private investigator, who said he participated with Stanford in "Operation Clean Slate," the 1998-2000 U.S. effort pushing for offshore banking reforms, and also found Crick obstructive.

Early in the trial, defense lawyers said Stanford would testify, but he doesn't have to, and U.S. District Judge David Hittner reminded jurors that they might learn his intentions only when and if he takes the stand.

Trial experts have said it's risky for defendants to testify because it subjects them to intense cross-examination. In Stanford's case, the decision is even more complicated because his lawyers attempted to delay the trial on grounds he was mentally incompetent to assist in his defense.

His Antiguan bank, Stanford International, is at the centre of what prosecutors allege was a $7 billion investor fraud led by Stanford and others.

Defense lawyer Ali Fazel showed spread sheets labelled as "consolidated"
financial reports during cross-examination of FBI agent Robert Martin, who spent Tuesday describing the flow of money through Stanford-related accounts based on financial reports he said came from Stanford's employees.

"Did you use this document to formulate these numbers?" Fazel asked as he showed Martin a series of statements that Fazel suggested projected the companies' financial standing if they were consolidated.

"I have not looked at this document," Martin replied repeatedly, explaining that he examined reports only of transactions that actually occurred, not projections.

Recalling Martin's testimony that money from the bank went to Stanford-affiliated companies, Fazel asked Martin why he assumed the money wasn't used for business purposes.

Martin said the companies were 100 per cent owned by Stanford and therefore were his "possessions."

On further prosecution questioning, Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew Warren asked about the defense suggestions that Stanford was consolidating his companies.

"Does consolidation allow you to create billions of dollars in thin air?"
Warren asked.

"No it does not," Martin replied.

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