Page last updated at 23:43 GMT, Thursday, 25 June 2009 00:43 UK

US billionaire pleads not guilty


Allen Stanford arrives at court for his hearing

Texan billionaire Sir Allen Stanford has pleaded not guilty to fraud, conspiracy and obstruction.

He made the plea as he appeared in court in Houston, Texas to face 21 charges related to an alleged $7bn (£4.3bn) fraud.

A judge set bail at $500,000 (£305,000) ahead of his trial on 25 August, but he remains in custody pending a government appeal, Reuters news agency says.

If convicted on all counts, Sir Allen could face life imprisonment.

Numerous charges

The billionaire arrived at court in handcuffs and chains, after spending the week since he handed himself in to FBI agents at a detention centre.

The justice department said a 50-page indictment accused him and other alleged co-conspirators of engaging in a scheme to defraud investors who purchased $7bn in certificates of deposit from Stanford International Bank, located in Antigua.

It said they "promised returns that were too good to be true".

The charges include seven counts of wire fraud, 10 counts of mail fraud, conspiracy to obstruct an investigation for the Securities and Exchange Commission, obstruction of an investigation by the SEC and conspiracy to commit money laundering.

The other Stanford Financial Group executives charged are Laura Pendergest-Holt, 35, Gilberto Lopez, 66, and Mark Kuhrt, 37.

The indictment also said Sir Allen made corrupt payments to Leroy King, 63, a former head of Antigua's financial services regulatory commission, who has also been charged.

He was taken into custody on Thursday, pending an extradition request from the US, Antigua officials said.

Stanford employee Bruce Perraud, 42, has been charged with destruction of records.

A separate indictment charged Stanford executive James M Davis, 60, with fraud and obstruction.

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