Stanford fit for trial - judge

2011-12-23 08:44

Chicago - Financier and cricket mogul Allen Stanford is mentally competent to stand trial for an alleged $7 billion fraud, a Texas judge ruled on Thursday.

Stanford, 61, was found to be temporarily unfit earlier this year after he became addicted to painkillers and antidepressants following a 2009 jailhouse brawl.

During the fight just after he was arrested, he was smashed into a steel pole, breaking many facial bones, and thrown onto a concrete floor injuring the back of his head.

His defence team sought to have Stanford ruled permanently unfit, arguing that he "suffers from severe loss of long term and short term memory," as a result of the beating.

But prosecutors said medical staff carried out "a sustained and comprehensive evaluation of Stanford during the past eight months at the end of which they found Stanford competent to stand trial."

The staff at a North Carolina medical facility also found his claim "that 59 years (of his life) were stolen" was "not credible," prosecutors said in the court filings, maintaining he had remembered significant details in conversations with a psychiatrist.

He also underwent a magnetic resonance image scan in March and there "was no evidence of damage to any part of Stanford's brain that processes memory," the documents said.

Judge David Hittner ruled on Thursday that "Stanford has recovered to such an extent that he is able to understand the nature and consequences of the proceedings against him and to assist properly in his defence."

Jury selection is set to begin on January 23.

The flamboyant Texan, who is a dual US and Antiguan citizen, has pleaded not guilty to 21 charges of fraud, money laundering and obstruction. He faces up to life in prison if convicted.

Stanford, a longtime resident of Antigua, came to cricket prominence when he announced he was putting $28 million into funding a Caribbean wide Twenty20 tournament in 2005.

The $20 million winner-take-all match appalled many in the cricket world by challenging the sacrosanct traditional cricket establishment.

The story goes that when Stanford stepped off a plane in Antigua and saw airport workers playing cricket in a nearby pasture during a break, he vowed to build them a cricket ground.

Yet according to the US Department of Justice it was also from that Caribbean island paradise that Stanford ran his huge financial scam, attracting some 30 000 investors and paying out dividends with funds culled from others.