In the Media

Two years after prison attack, Stanford is ruled fit to stand trial

PUBLISHED December 23, 2011

He has spent the past two years in a Texas prison cell, untried for his alleged crimes. Last night Allen Stanford was deemed mentally fit to stand trial next month on charges that he swindled investors out of more than $7 billion. The ruling by a judge in Houston followed a tense three-day hearing in which opposing ranks of psychiatrists and doctors battled to put forward their differing opinions of the financier?s mental state. Mr Stanford arrived in the court handcuffed to a guard, looking wan and thin and claiming to suffer severe amnesia. Last night, Judge David Hittner found him competent to stand trial. Mr Stanford will go before a jury on January 23, instead of returning to prison for further rehabilitation, as his lawyers had argued he should. The trial had been delayed from last January after three doctors said that he was incapable of testifying. Mr Stanford, 61, is accused of defrauding clients by funnelling their money through a bank in Antigua. He claimed to have developed acute memory loss after receiving a severe beating in prison in 2009 and becoming addicted to anti-anxiety drugs. He spent more than eight months being treated at a federal prison hospital in North Carolina. He is alleged to have lavished money on yachts, jets, mansions and a private Caribbean island after rigging the biggest Ponzi scheme since Bernard Madoff. His financial empire stretched from its headquarters in Houston across the United States, the Caribbean and Latin America. In 2008 he signed a $100 million deal with the England and Wales Cricket Board to stage a series of international cricket matches. Mr Stanford?s lawyers say that he suffered a brain injury as a result of being attacked in prison in 2009, which was made worse by becoming dependent on a toxic ?cocktail of medications? that were administered in jail. The former billionaire claims that relatives have had to ?educate? him about his previous life and he was said to be distressed by learning of his background in which ?he was known as a womaniser?, his defence said. He is said to have used a substantial part of the misappropriated funds to pay off women with whom he had children. The prosecution called in a team of doctors to allege that he was conveniently faking extensive retrograde amnesia. Mr Stanford and his executives stand accused of fabricating the Antiguan bank?s records and bribing local authorities with investors? money held in a secret Swiss bank account. He was indicted in June 2009 by a federal grand jury. He faces 14 counts, including wire and mail fraud. He denies wrongdoing.