Antigua ex-official ordered extradited over Stanford

MIAMI Mon Apr 26, 2010 8:43pm EDT

MIAMI (Reuters) - Antigua and Barbuda's former top financial regulator was ordered on Monday to be extradited to the United States to face charges he assisted accused Texas financier Allen Stanford in an alleged $7 billion fraud, a spokesperson for the Antigua attorney general's office said.

The United States sought the extradition of Leroy King, former head of Antigua and Barbuda's Financial Services Regulatory Commission, after federal prosecutors last year announced criminal charges against him of fraud, conspiracy, obstructing justice and conspiracy to launder money.

U.S. prosecutors accused King of being a key player in helping to conceal the massive Ponzi scheme Stanford is charged with operating from the bank he owned in Antigua and Barbuda, the twin-island Caribbean state where he was the biggest investor.

Stanford, who was a flamboyant jet-setting billionaire and sports entrepreneur in the United States and Caribbean, is due to stand trial in January 2011. He denies wrongdoing.

"Mr. Leroy King has been ordered to be extradited to face all the charges against him," the spokesperson for the attorney general's chambers in Antigua and Barbuda told Reuters.

King, who has been under house arrest since last year, had 15 days to appeal to the High Court to review the decision.

Antigua and Barbuda was at the heart of Stanford's business empire stretching from the Caribbean to the United States, Latin America and Europe.

The country's biggest bank, Stanford International Bank Ltd, sold certificates of deposit that the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission says bilked thousands of investors out of billions of dollars.

U.S. authorities allege King received "thousands of dollars in bribes" from Stanford to ensure the Antigua regulatory authority "looked the other way" and conducted sham audits of Stanford's operations.

In a plea agreement filed last year, Stanford's former top U.S. aide, James M. Davis, alleged that King performed a "blood oath" brotherhood ceremony with Stanford in 2003, in which in exchange for cash bribes he was to ensure Antiguan regulators did not "kill the business" of Stanford's bank.

The U.S. SEC said King helped Stanford and his associates evade and obstruct U.S. probes of the Stanford business empire for several years.

Antigua and Barbuda has said its image as an offshore finance destination was damaged by the scandal surrounding "Sir Allen" Stanford, who was granted a knighthood by a previous government which was revoked after the fraud scandal broke.

Local officials say the Stanford scandal has badly hurt the economy of the small state of around 85,000 people, causing economic losses and layoffs.

(Editing by Bernard Orr)

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