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Stanford charged with fraud in USA

US authorities have charged Texas billionaire Allen Stanford, the man behind the Stanford Twenty20 series, with "massive ongoing fraud" on Wednesday.

In a complaint filed in a Dallas federal court, the US Securities and Exchange Commission accused the cricket-loving Stanford and two other top executives at Stanford Financial Group of fraudulently selling $16 billion in high-yield certificates of deposit.

About 15 federal agents, some wearing jackets identifying them as US marshals, entered the lobby of Stanford's office in the Houston Galleria area, a Reuters eyewitness said.

US media descended on the scene and television helicopters hovered overhead.

The English and West Indies cricket boards have immediately suspended their negotiations over new sponsorship deals.

New Zealand Cricket also stands to take a big hit - negotiations were in the process for the Black Caps to be part of a Stanford event in May.

Stanford also has ties with golfers Vijay Singh, Henrik Stenson and Camilo Villegas and footballer Michael Owen.

Stanford Financial said it remained open for business but was "under the management of a receiver," according to a sign taped to the door of the firm's Houston office.

According to the 25-page SEC complaint, filed in federal district court in Dallas, Stanford sold $16 billion in CDS "by promising high return rates that exceed those available through true certificates of deposits offered by traditional banks."

The SEC said it was seeking to freeze the assets of the company and appoint a receiver "to take possession and control of defendants' assets for the protection of defendants' victims."

The move comes as investors, politicians and regulators focus on the returns that investment firms promise and provide following an alleged $100 billion fraud by Wall Street financier Bernard Madoff.

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