HOUSTON – With typical Texas flamboyance, Sir Robert Allen Stanford built a financial empire which stretched across Texas, through Mexico, the Caribbean islands and into South America. He was charged by the SEC on Feb. 17 with defrauding investors of upwards of $8 billion in the most shocking financial scandal in Texas since the fall of Enron.
The centerpiece of his empire was a bank in Antigua, which some think may have been a major drug money laundering center for organized crime operations in Latin America. A native of Mexia, Texas, he affected a British accent and was knighted in Antigua. Some of the countries involved in his financial operations included Colombia, Ecuador, Mexico, Panama, Peru and Venezuela.
Last week, after charges against him became public, panicked investors flew their private jets to Antigua, only to be turned away. Many Houston-area charities supported by the Stanford empire, including the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston and St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital in Memphis will not be receiving their usual contributions due to the pending investigations by multiple branches of the federal government.
Right wing talk host Sean Hannity promoted Stanford Coins & Bullion, a part of the Stanford Financial Group, on advertisements which ran on his show by stating “their name is as good as gold.”
Many people stand to be hurt in this far reaching scandal. Some people had invested their life savings in the financial group because of its claims of high rates of return.
Set in the context of the global financial catastrophe, many people are questioning the wisdom of a system in which people’s individual retirement funds can be swindled out of them by private companies. They are also questioning a system which makes the arts and health care dependent on charitable contributions by these same unscrupulous individuals.