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Page last updated at 13:14 GMT, Friday, 19 June 2009 14:14 UK

Profile: Sir Allen Stanford

Sir Allen Stanford - file photo 11/06/2008
Sir Allen has established a multi-billion dollar business empire

Standing 6ft 4in tall, broad-shouldered Texan billionaire Sir Allen Stanford cuts an imposing figure.

The wealth he has built since he started in property in Houston in the 1980s has also seen him acquire an international profile.

He has rubbed shoulders with some of the world's most prominent business people, politicians and sports stars.

Sir Allen, a 58-year-old father-of-six, is 205th on America's rich list, with a $2.2bn (£1.5bn) fortune, according to the Forbes 400 listing of American's wealthiest individuals.

He is a fifth-generation Texan who controls a global wealth management company, the Stanford Financial Group, which claims clients from 140 countries and has assets of $50bn (£35bn) under management.

Knighthood

The Stanford empire started during the Great Depression in 1932 when his grandfather Lodis founded the first company in the small Texas town of Mexia.

After making his first fortune in property, Sir Allen began expanding the family firm.

One of the companies and divisions under the Stanford umbrella is the Stanford International Bank, based in Antigua, which is at the centre of the current fraud allegations.

His company website also claims that "for more than 20 years, Sir Allen has been one of the world's leading investors in developing economies".

Among the recent schemes he launched was a $2bn investment fund earmarked for upscale development projects in the Caribbean, the website says.

Sir Allen, who is separated from his wife Susan, lives in St Croix in the US Virgin Islands. He holds citizenship for Antigua and Barbuda, where he is the largest employer after the government.

Cricketer Chris Gayle and Sir Allen Stanford (01/11/08)
Sir Allen has pumped vast amounts of money into several sports

In 2006, he became the first American to be knighted by the islands - with his earlier citizenship allowing him to call himself Sir Allen.

But Sir Allen has built a portfolio and influence far beyond the world of commerce and finance.

Last year, he caused controversy by staging a $20m cricket match between England and his own team, the Stanford All Stars, made up of West Indian players.

The controversy was not just contained to the money and the match. Sir Allen had to apologise to the England players for being over-friendly with some of their wives and girlfriends after pictures showed one of them sitting on his knee during an earlier game.

The Stanford name is also linked with other sports tournaments including golf, tennis, polo and sailing. In addition, he has signed endorsement deals with top golfer Vijay Singh and footballer Michael Owen.

Political contributions

Away from the sports field, Sir Allen has used his money to get noticed among the political establishment in Washington.

He has personally given nearly $1m to US politics from both sides, although mostly to Democrats, according to the Centre for Responsive Politics, a group that tracks campaign spending.

The group says that since 2000, the Stanford Financial Group has also contributed $2.4m, through its political action committee and employees.

SIR ALLEN IN FIGURES
Age: 58
Children: 6
Net worth: £2.2bn
American's richest: 205th
Assets managed by company: $50bn

In addition, it lists more than 100 politicians who, in the past, have received contributions from the Stanford empire, among them are US president Barack Obama and his presidential challenger John McCain. Both men have since promised to return the funds or donate them to charity, according to reports in the US media.

Sir Allen has not just given money to politicians, he has mingled with them.

He was seen giving a hug to the speaker of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, at the Democratic National Convention last year, while ABC News reported that former US President Bill Clinton publicly thanked Sir Allen's firm for helping to finance a convention-related forum and party.

Fraud allegations

The billionaire financer said very little when charged with investment fraud by US regulators, the Securities and Exchange Commission, in February 2009.

Documents in the civil court case show Sir Allen pleaded the Fifth Amendment - the right to withhold potentially self-incriminating evidence.

However, in an interview with ABC earlier this year he insisted no money was lost by customers dealing with his financial services companies.

"If it was a Ponzi scheme, why are they finding billions and billions of dollars all over the place?" he said at the time.

In June, he turned himself in to the Virginia office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation to answer a criminal fraud indictment.



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