If anyone’s biography was guaranteed to be a Tinsel Town blockbuster it has to be ‘Sir’ Allen Stanford’s.
It’s got all the elements – drug cartels, missing billions, celebrity ties, international sporting events, embarrassed politicians and government involvement.
It looks as if all investors have lost their money and their only hope is to get a portion of it back when eventually the whole Stanford empire mess is sorted. But that could take years.
Stanford claimed to have a multi-billion dollar business in handling people’s money and his profile was raised considerable in recent years by ploughing millions into sport and especially cricket in the Caribbean. Many West Indies legends were on Stanford’s payroll too until they were abruptly dismissed a couple of months ago. They included Sir Garry Sobers, Joel Garner, Courtney Walsh, Lance Gibbs and Sir Vivian Richards.
Stanford sponsored major sporting events, including golf and tennis. Tiger Woods and Michael Owen were on his extensive clients’ list.
Yet this show of grand wealth and shrewd investing was a huge facade which came crashing down a couple of weeks ago despite the warning signs that Stanford was merely a slick fraudster being unearthed over 20 years ago.
One Cayman resident who got to know him fairly well was Rhonda Kelly:
Along with partner Laurie Ann Holding, Kelly runs the events management company Kelly Holding Ltd, based in George Town.
Laurie Ann is the wife of cricket legend Michael Holding.
Kelly Holding had the contract to manage the two Stanford 20/20 tournaments in Antigua that ran in 2006 and last year which is how they got to know the disgraced financier.
Kelly always thought Stanford was an honourable businessman even though his sometimes abrasive nature did not endear him to everyone. When his empire collapsed amid clear evidence of fraudulent accounting, she was surprised.
‘I must say, I am shocked,’ she said. ‘We worked with Stanford very closely for three years and I was surprised by a lot of the things that have come out, such as the company isn’t as old as he claims and it wasn’t founded by his grandfather 70-odd years ago. All these things we took as being fact.
‘I’m hurt for the people he’s hurt. We stopped working for him for various reasons, but one of them was because we had to work his way.
‘Also, Michael Holding saw some things, being part of the board, that he felt very uncomfortable about. Mickey felt that Stanford wasn’t genuine, he wasn’t doing what he was doing for West Indies cricket. He was just in it for himself. Basically, Mickey was right.
‘We’ve had our own trouble with him. We were suing him because he owed us for the last two months that we worked for him. It’s small change for him but a lot of money for a small company.
‘If from what I’ve heard is true he has to go to jail. His alleged involvement with gangs and drugs… that’s wrong on so many levels. If all that is true – and I don’t know because I haven’t seen all the evidence – then he should go to jail.
‘I’m also sorry for the West Indians who won $1 million in the match against England who have lost all their money (after they invested in Stanford’s companies). That’s sad beyond words.
‘I’m also sorry for all the people who have lost their money, whether it’s a small amount or millions. I’m thankful we got out when we did and severed all ties.’
Kelly found Stanford, 58, to be a hard taskmaster.
‘At times he was very erratic and demanding. We worked so hard for him and that’s what hurts the most, having to file a law suit, we gave our hearts and soul to that b******.
‘We didn’t do that just as a job, that was our life for three years. We gave it everything so it really hurt when he didn’t want to pay us at the end. We earned our money ten times over with him.
‘I couldn’t believe it after that. I really thought he was a man of character and would not turn his back on us.
‘A lot of legends thought that too. They really thought he was a good person and I slowly started to realise that he was not a good person after what we were going through and that has now been confirmed.’
She feels Stanford was trying to add credibility to his empire and thus attract more investors by gaining a profile as a sports promoter.
‘I think he was trying to validate himself through being with famous people. We saw his ego first-hand.
‘He loved being on TV and he was always enamoured with his own wealth. I always found that for someone who was supposed to be rich his whole life he was always making a big deal about his wealth. I even said that to people, several times. He didn’t act as if he had been rich his whole life.’