Fraud charges against Stanford put ECB in crisis

February 18th, 2009 - 4:03 pm ICT by IANS  

London, Feb 18 (IANS) The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) plunged into fresh crisis after its billionaire American backer Allen Stanford was charged by US regulators over an alleged multi-billion dollar fraud.
ECB has suspended its ties with the Texas businessman and plans of an ambitious Twenty20 tournament are likely to be shelved. ECB chairman Giles Clarke is also under pressure to quit as he admitted the decision to bond the game so closely with Stanford was a mistake.

“We had the best of intentions, so yes,” Clarke said when asked whether he regretted forging close ties with the Texan.

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filed a complaint in a Dallas court against Stanford and three of his companies, alleging that about $8 billion of so-called certificates of deposit were sold to investors by promising “improbable and unsubstantiated high interest rates.”

“We are alleging a fraud of shocking magnitude that has spread its tentacles throughout the world,” said Rose Romero, regional director of the SEC’s Fort Worth, Texas, office.

With Stanford placed under a temporary restraining order and his assets frozen following a raid on his Houston company headquarters, English cricket is facing huge uncertainty over the quadrangular Twenty20 international tournament he was to have funded in each of the next three summers, the annual Stanford Series in Antigua and a county competition in which he was to have been involved, reports The Guardian.

“Following the allegations, the England and Wales Cricket Board and the West Indies Cricket Board have suspended negotiations with Sir Allen Stanford and his financial corporation concerning a new sponsorship deal,” the ECB said in a statement.

If Stanford’s financial support for cricket ended, it would have a big impact on the game in the Caribbean and England.

Stanford bank-rolled a winner-take-all $20 million Twenty20 match in November between England and a West Indies all-star team in Antigua, the first of five planned annual games worth a total $100 million.

The all-stars won on the richest payday in cricket, with each of the 11 players collecting $1 million. The remainder was split between the reserve players and staff and national cricket associations.

In December, Stanford closed his cricket office in Antigua, disbanded his Twenty20 “Board of Legends” and terminated the contracts of West Indies cricket greats on it.

“A lot of us felt it was a serious error of judgment by Giles Clarke to get involved with Stanford in the first place and events would seem to have vindicated that opinion,” said Neil Davidson, the chairman of Leicestershire, who was a vocal opponent of Clarke’s during his recent re-election campaign.

“In any normal organisation the chairman’s position would be untenable in these circumstances,” he said.

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