‘If Stanford is in trouble, that is bad for Antigua’

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The Independent US

On the streets of Antigua, Texas billionaire Allen Stanford is a controversial figure. Some admire him while others deride him as a modern-day colonialist. But nearly all say they fear that a US investigation into the tycoon’s financial empire and Antigua-based offshore bank could damage the Caribbean island where Stanford is not only a household name, but also its biggest private employer and powerful business force.

“He’s providing jobs. He’s good for the economy. If he’s in trouble, that’s bad for us all,” said George Green, manager of Cool Down Cafe, a hole-in-the-wall restaurant on a narrow street in St John’s, the island’s capital. Green’s comment was echoed across the twin-island nation of Antigua and Barbuda.

Knighted in 2006 by Antigua, Stanford is a formidable presence there. His personal fortune, valued last year by Forbes at $2.2bn, dwarfs Antigua’s gross domestic product of around $1bn. His business interests range from tourism to property and publishing.

Winston Derrick, publisher of the Antigua Observer newspaper, said locals were deeply divided over Stamford with about half viewing him as an arrogant, land-grabbing investor in the mould of the island’s former colonial rulers. The other half, he said, were thankful for his business.

Antiguan Finance Minister Errol Cort expressed confidence in the island’s regulatory system which he said met the highest international standards.

Employees of Antigua-based Stanford Development Co received letters last month saying more than 200 will be dismissed.