R. Allen Stanford, the missing Texas billionaire slapped with an S.E.C. complaint yesterday alleging a $9.2 billion fraud against investors, reportedly has been under investigation by the FBI and others for laundering Gulf cartel drug money:
Authorities tell ABC News that as part of the investigation, which has been ongoing since last year, Mexican authorities detained one of Stanford's private planes. According to officials, checks found inside the plane were believed to be connected to the Gulf cartel, reputed to be Mexico's most violent gang. Authorities say Stanford could potentially face criminal charges of money laundering and bribery of foreign officials.
The Wall Street Journal reports that Stanford International Bank and its affiliates previously have been investigated on allegations that drug cartels and the Russian Mafia were laundering money through them:
One early probe into Stanford International Bank and its affiliates came in 1997 as part of a Drug Enforcement Administration probe into the laundering of narcotics proceeds by a Mexican drug cartel, DEA records show. The Stanford bank cooperated with the DEA and handed over millions of dollars, court records show. The bank wasn't charged. Shortly thereafter, the State Department began sounding the alarm about potential money laundering in Antigua by the Russian mafia and other criminal syndicates. In April 1999, the Treasury Department issued a special advisory warning U.S. banks to give scrutiny to Antigua transactions. The Treasury said in a statement at the time it had concerns that the financial companies being regulated by an Antiguan regulator were in fact controlling the regulator. That statement was a reference to Stanford International Bank, among others, former U.S. officials said. The regulatory situation was "very strange," said former State Department official Jonathan Winer in an interview Wednesday. "It was an obvious conflict of interest and we objected to it." Antiguan officials at that time dismissed those allegations and said that they were implementing world-class money-laundering regulations.
Criminal defense lawyer Ron Woods, a former U.S. Attorney in Houston and ex-agent of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, states it is unlikely that Stanford will be missing for long:
Woods, who trained FBI agents in the U.S. Virgin Islands, where Stanford maintains a home, said it is unlikely that Stanford has gone into hiding. "He's so high-profile, I can't see him fleeing," Woods said. So many countries have extradition treaties with the United States that "it is very difficult to hide anywhere these days," Woods said. "There are very few countries, none of which you'd really want to live in. People running and hiding live a miserable existence, and they usually get caught."