Cricket’s Stanford under investigation

The businesses of Allen Stanford, the Texas billionaire who has popularised Twenty20 cricket in the Caribbean, are now being probed by United States financial investigators.

Regulators are investigating an investment firm and Stanford’s Caribbean bank, which have delivered higher-than-average returns to investors and depositors despite the global meltdown, an official said yesterday.

Investigators visited Florida offices of the Houston, Texas-based Stanford Group Co in January as part of a probe that dates back at least three months, said a US official with knowledge of the probe who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to provide information about it.

The Securities and Exchange Commission, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority – the US brokerage industry’s self-policing body – and the Florida Office of Financial Regulation are trying to determine if the investment company and bank controlled by Stanford violated financial regulations or laws as they prospered and maintained high rates of return on certificates of deposit in recent years, the official said.

A spokeswoman for the Florida agency, Holly Hinson, confirmed its investigation, but said she could not disclose details.

A Stanford spokesman denied anything was unusual about the regulators’ visit last month to the company’s offices in Florida.

“We were informed by the three agencies that this was a routine exami-nation,” spokesman Brian Bertsch told The Associated Press.

Stanford, 58, is one of the most prominent businessmen in the Caribbean, with investment advisers around the world helping him grow a personal fortune estimated at $2.2 billion by Forbes magazine.

Stanford is of American heritage and has Antiguan-Barbudan citizenship. He has put close to US$50 million into cricket in the Caribbean since his first regional Twenty20 tournament in 2006. Last year, he introduced a cash-rich tournament, which saw Stanford Superstars, comprising players from the region, playing against England in a winner-take-all US$20-million match.