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Investment fraud suspect Stanford was major political donor

Robert Allen Stanford, his firm, or its employees are said to have delivered $2.4 million to political operations since 2000.

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Stanford, who has not been charged with any crime, may have yet more pressing concerns. According to an ABC News report, federal authorities are investigating the banker regarding money laundering for a Mexican drug cartel. The network, on its website, says one of Stanford’s private planes was detained last year by Mexican officials, who found suspicious checks that might be drug related.

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Ties to US, Antigua

Stanford, who was born in Mexia, Texas, has dual citizenship in the US and the Caribbean nation of Antigua and Barbuda, the site of his international banking operations.

In the past, the Caribbean island nation has been in the cross hairs over its money-laundering rules.
Twelve years ago, after the US imposed sanctions on the island, then-Prime Minister Lester Bird asked Stanford to help oversee a rewrite of Antigua’s money-laundering regulations.

“The embassy described it as record-gate or file-gate,” recalls Jonathan Winer, then deputy assistant secretary of State for international law enforcement. “Stanford took over the records of the offshore bank regulator, created the rules for cleaning it up, and drafted the legislation. None of us had ever seen anything like this before,” says Mr. Winer, now a senior vice president at APCO International in Washington, a global consulting firm.

Stuart Eizenstat, who was deputy secretary of the Treasury from 1999 to 2001, recalls the notoriety of Antigua as it failed to improve. Antigua appeared on a Treasury “name and shame” list during that period, but, unlike other countries, Antigua was not “shamed.”

“That list included Russia, Liechtenstein, Panama, Israel, and Antigua among countries not up to international standards,” says Mr. Eizenstat, now head of the international practice at the law firm Covington & Burling in Washington.

“Most of the other countries did change their rules, but not Antigua,” he says.

Fraud legislation stalled

Cutting down on money laundering and financial fraud became a significant interest of Rep. Mike Rogers (R) of Michigan, a former FBI agent. He introduced legislation to improve the ability of state and federal agencies to share information. With the support of the Clinton administration, it passed the House.

But when the bill reached the US Senate, it stalled.

The public-interest lobbying group Public Citizen became curious about what happened. It found Stanford had given contributions to the “soft money” accounts of then-Sen. Tom Daschle (D) of South Dakota, who was Senate minority leader, as well as other key legislators and both political parties.

“What we concluded was that it was his soft-money contribution, aimed at killing the money-laundering legislation, that got the bill killed,” says Steve Weissman, then at Public Citizen, now associate director for policy at the Campaign Finance Institute in Washington.

Representative Rogers knew from his experience at the FBI that something needed to be done, says a spokeswoman.

“If the law had been adopted, it would have surely impacted transparency and made it easier to prevent the fraud cases we’re seeing now,” she says, quoting him.

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