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Stanford's lavish St Croix assets remain unfrozen

A view of seaside Christiansted from the top of Recovery Hill, St Croix, US Virgin Islands. Texan billionaire Allen Stanford, who is at the center of a multi-billion dollar fraud charge, owns several residential tracts in a largely undeveloped area just outside Christiansted. (REUTERS) 

By Reuters
Millions of dollars of Allen Stanford's assets on St Croix remained unfrozen on Monday, even after a court-appointed receiver was said to have arrived on the Caribbean island.

US regulators have not seized any of Stanford's St Croix assets, which include a 120-foot yacht called the Sea Eagle Bikini and a $7.7 million (Dh28 million) mansion in Christiansted, St Croix's largest city, according to James Sullivan, the US Marshal for the US Virgin Islands.

"We know who owns the boat and home. If they (regulators) ask us to seize it, we will," Sullivan said. "As of today, we have no indications that they'll ask us ... I don't know if they want us to or don't want us to."

A spokesman for the governor of the US Virgin Islands said he had heard that the receiver – the court-appointed attorney overseeing Stanford Financial's affairs and assets – had arrived on St Croix on Friday and met with Stanford employees, but he could not independently verify it.

"We're hearing dribs and drabs," said spokesman Jean Greaux, adding that the receiver had "no compelling reason" to inform the government. Dallas lawyer Ralph Janvey was appointed receiver by the US District Court in Dallas, Texas.

An email sent to the receiver and a call to Stanford Financial's St Croix office were unanswered on Monday.

The US Securities and Exchange Commission last week charged Stanford, 58, with fraudulently selling $8 billion in certificates of deposit with improbably high interest rates from his Stanford International Bank Ltd (SIB), headquartered in Antigua. Regulators in Antigua have seized Stanford's banks and companies there.

He faces SEC charges but no criminal charges.

Stanford has several offices and residences on St Croix, the largest of the US Virgin Islands.

At one point, Stanford had about 80 local employees but has laid off at least 18, Greaux said. The governor's spokesman said the layoffs were not necessarily related to the federal probe.

"That was before the receiver stepped in," Greaux said.

The Texas billionaire is current on his rent payments for 37 acres of land near St Croix's airport he is leasing from the US Virgin Islands Port Authority, according to the authority's spokeswoman.

The lease, which started in February 2007, is for 50 years at a rate of $805,462.50 per year, said spokeswoman Monifa Morero. Aside from paying a three-month security deposit totaling $201,365.63, Stanford also promised to spend at least $5 million to develop the property, she said.

Stanford Financial planned to build a massive office complex on the land, intended to serve as headquarters for support functions for its financial empire.

Construction on the site had been in the first stage of installing sewage and water lines, but now it is "at a standstill," Morero said. "We are all hoping for the best."

According to Stanford Financial's website, it established its global oversight office and Caribbean regional headquarters in St Croix.

Public records show Allen Stanford paid $11.5 million for several parcels of property around the island, while his Stanford Real Estate Acquisition LLC acquired $11.7 million worth of property.

Stanford's yacht was docked in Christiansted on Monday, and four pairs of sandals on the dock suggested people were aboard, though several calls were unanswered.

Stanford did have corporate jets on St Croix, but the US Marshal said he believed they have been returned to Stanford Financial's corporate hangar in Sugar Land, Texas.

Stanford purchased his downtown mansion, known as the Bjerget House, last year at an auction related to the bankruptcy of its former owner, Jeffrey Prosser and his Innovative Communication Corp.

The sprawling 18th-century home was once owned by the Danish pianist and comedian Victor Borge, and its opulent, gated exterior is in sharp contrast with its smaller Hill Street neighbors.