Page last updated at 19:01 GMT, Friday, 27 February 2009

Seizure of Stanford land endorsed

Sir Allen Stanford - file photo 11/06/2008
Sir Allen was Antigua's largest private employer

Antigua and Barbuda's Senate has approved the seizure of land owned by Sir Allen Stanford, the US financier accused of a $8bn (5.6bn) fraud.

The lower house had already voted for the proposal, which now needs to be signed by the governor-general.

The measure authorises the seizure of about 100 hectares of land and assets belonging to Sir Allen, who was the island's largest private employer.

Antigua wants to seize land and assets before a US receiver can claim them.

"We have to give ourselves a bargaining chip, so when the receivers come they have to deal with the government of Antigua and Barbuda," Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer said after the House of Representatives approved the seizure.

Opposition abstention

Sir Allen's businesses on Antigua and Barbuda include two restaurants, a newspaper, cricket grounds, a development company, a three-branch local bank and the headquarters of his offshore bank.

Together they employ some 800 people.

Sir Allen faces civil charges after being accused by the US authorities of defrauding up to 50,000 customers around the world.

The cricket impresario is accused of luring investors with promises of improbable and unsubstantiated high returns on certificates of deposit and other investments.

Last week, FBI agents in the US state of Virginia served him with civil legal papers from the SEC, the US financial watchdog.

The Texan billionaire is also the focus of a US criminal investigation.

Opposition senators abstained from Friday's vote, Reuters news agency reported.

The opposition had said the government should wait for more evidence of wrongdoing, and to see whether US authorities would file criminal charges against him.

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