Saturday, February 21, 2009

One More Question: Who Protected Allen Stanford?

The tremendous news coverage of the Allen Stanford scandal reminded someone I know that after we first saw his large bank buildings next to the VC Bird airport on a trip some years back (we have been going to Antigua for over 30 years)--and subsequently learned from local residents that Stanford had displaced the Hadeed family as the richest man in town--she had conducted an internet search on Stanford...and come up with almost nothing. Which perhaps was because not only was he a big man in Antigua, he had a enjoyed widespread reputation as an alleged money-launderer for international drug dealers.

So, until this story broke in the US, we had thought he was pretty much a local phenomenon, keeping his head low. Perhaps his ego got the better of his caution, for it was a surprise to read that he had descended from a helicopter onto Lord's Cricket Ground in London, that he had American operations, and that he had a Washington office paying out millions in campaign contributions and fees to political insiders. Which made one wonder...did Stanford become bolder because he may have thought he had been buying protection? And did his protection end after the 2008 election results became clear? For according to press reports, despite long-standing complaints, action only was taken in the Stanford case in December, 2008.

Which makes one wonder precisely which "unnamed agency" asked the SEC to lay off Stanford, and why? And how high Stanford's protection, if there had been protection, may have extended.

We arrived in Washington during the BCCI scandal, known informally as the "Bank of Crooks and Criminals International"--which turned out to have reputed protection from the US government as a pass-through for unsavory activities, including accusations of CIA-money laundering. Was Stanford's bank a 21st-century version of BCCI? From Wikipedia:
BCCI was not shy about dealing with questionable elements, like many other international banks as well as Swiss private banks. It frequently handled money for various purposes, and was the banker for such dictators as Saddam Hussein, Manuel Noriega, Hussain Mohammad Ershad and Samuel Doe, all of whom were explicitly connected to the United States government at various points in time. Preferential treatment by some of the world's moneyed leaders to BCCI led to it being nicknamed by some of its rivals as "the Bank of Crooks and Criminals International."

In 1988, BCCI was implicated in a drug-money-laundering scheme based in Tampa, Florida: the C-Chase case. BCCI was called many names, including the CIA’s money-laundering facility, an allegation that once again was never proven to be true. BCCI, under immense pressure from US authorities, pleaded guilty in 1990, but only on the grounds of respondeat superior. While federal regulators took no action, Florida regulators forced BCCI to pull out of the state.

We'll have to see what Congressional investigations turn up. Now that the likes of Johnny Damon are involved, there may be some "curb appeal" for politicians to pursue the matter...all the way to Houston, Texas.