Allen Stanford – once Sir Allen, Knight Commander of the Order of the Nation (KCN) of Antigua and Barbuda – is a name that Antigua would prefer to forget. Once hailed as the economic savior of the tiny island with a population of only 80,000, he swindled millions in a Pozzi scheme. When his bank went bust, the island was gutted of its economic lifeline.
Playing on a sticky wicket
It all started in a bar called the Sticky Wicket in a not so salubrious area when he was struck by the idea to buy the land, construct a cricket stadium and turn Antigua into a global cricket destination.
Remember this is a guy from Texas. They love their guns and pickups in Texas but cricket?
He poured millions into the impoverished West Indian Cricket board to the suprise of many who wondered why an American banker was so interested in cricket. His wealth of around $2.5 billion was double that of the entire Antigua economy. He effectively colonized the country. By now he was Sir Allen.
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He got his stadium built in double-quick time with just one stand and a couple of corporate boxes attached to the Bar, all state-of-the-art. He paid out a million dollars just for the sound system alone. It was called the Sir Allen Stanford Stadium, though the locals began calling it The Sticky Wicket Stadium. It was both a temple of cricket and a momument to Stanford’s ego.
Antigua party town
In 2006, he launched the Stanford League, paying incrementally high wages to the players. From US$150 a game, the pay went to a grand. Where there was conflict, now there was cheers and for he’s a jolly good fellow around. In 2008, he announced the winner-takes-all one-off T20 between England and Stanford XI, drawn from Antiguan players with $20 million prize money . Antigua became party town and tourists flooded in. What was there not to love about the guy? His team won the tournament and the prize.
I don’t like cricket – I love it
But many asked what had suddenly inspired his sudden love of cricket. Was it perhaps a scheme to blindside his detractors who were already questioning his above-average returns on investment.
Six months later, Sir Allen was tucked up in the cellars of a Florida prison, exposed as a big-time cheat. It was all one big Pozzi scheme. None of his wealth had any substance. Panic set in. 1,500 lost locals their jobs. Bank accounts were frozen. There were endless 24 hours queues outside banks.
The stadium too was closed and mother nature began to reclaim the land. The West Indian Cricket Board took over the land from the government. It still has a semblance of grandeur, but nothing of its former splendor.
The US authorities threw the book at him. Even his lawyer wanted nothing to do with him. Economic homicide they called his crimes. They don’t like to give life sentences in the US, just very long ones. Allen Standford is due for Parole when he is 155 years old. In other words, he is never getting out.