Will Stanford charges hit cricket for a six
News of charges of financial fraud being laid against Caribbean-based Texas billionaire Sir Allen Stanford spread around Antigua like wildfire yesterday afternoon and its impact was immediate.
Several dismayed Antiguans tried unsuccessfully to withdraw money from the Stanford International Bank (SIB) here upon hearing the news.
The dramatic turn of events also drew a quick response from the cricketing world, in particular, the West Indies Cricket Board and the England and Wales Cricket Board.
The two organisations have a five-year agreement with Stanford involving the Stanford Super series and the US$20million Twenty/20 for 20 match, the first edition of which was staged last November.
During the third day's play in the Third Test between the West Indies and England at the Antigua Recreation Ground yesterday, the two boards issued a joint statement following the news that a United States district judge had granted the Securities and Exchange Commission's (SEC) request to impose a temporary restraining order on Stanford's operations and to freeze his assets, and appoint a receiver to marshal those assets.
Those assets include the Stanford Group, the SIB and another subsidiary, investment adviser Stanford Capital Management.
The joint statement read: "Following an announcement today by the US Securities and Exchange Commission that it has charged Sir Allen Stanford and three of his companies with fraudulent conduct, the England and Wales Cricket Board and the West Indies Cricket Board have immediately suspended all their ongoing negotiations with Sir Allen Stanford and his corporate group."
England Cricket Board chairman Giles Clarke was willing to admit to the media that his organisation may have made an error of judgment in doing business with the embattled Stanford "with the best of intentions".
WICB president Dr Julian Hunte was not willing to go so far. "I don't want to pass any judgment," he told the Express. "I don't like to kick a man when he's down. What we know is that as we speak, his licence has been suspended."
The implications for West Indies cricket are also immediate, as they concern the Stanford 20/20 regional series.
While Stanford had disbanded his Legends board of directors late last year as he scaled back his operations, the regional series was expected to go ahead.
However, asked about the future of that tournament in which Trinidad and Tobago captured the US$1million first prize a year ago, Hunte said: "We anticipate that it will not continue (in the immediate future)."
But he assured: "That is not a difficult matter for us to deal with. Either the West Indies Cricket Board on its own or with the assistance of other entrepreneurs, we'll be able to get a tournament going in a way that will make it financially viable for us."
And Hunte was again at pains to say yesterday that Stanford's plunging fortunes did not also mean doom for West Indies cricket. "To all intents and purposes, the West Indies Cricket Board is not dependent on Stanford for its financial viability," he said.
"Stanford did, in the midst of all of this, make contributions to the territorial boards to assist them with the development of their cricket. And that has been very useful in terms of having an impact on how our cricket develops. In this regard you're not going to get a Stanford coming around very soon, but we have to make the adjustment to proceed."
The WICB have an executive meeting scheduled for next Saturday. And Hunte indicated that this matter will be discussed then.