HOUSTON (Reuters) - The court-appointed examiner for customers of accused swindler Allen Stanford called for the release of more accounts suspected of holding funds related to an $8.5 billion fraud.
"The law simply does not support a continuing freeze of customer accounts that belong to third parties who have done nothing wrong," John Little, the examiner said in his first status report filed in federal court in Dallas late on Thursday.
Allen Stanford and two executives that helped run his financial empire are accused by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission of an fraud involving certificates of deposit (CDs) issued by Stanford International Bank in Antigua.
Ralph Janvey, the court-appointed receiver charged with preserving Stanford assets for the firm's customers, was granted broad authority by U.S. District Judge David Godbey in February to freeze accounts holding funds believed to be linked to the alleged fraud.
So far, the receiver, with court approval, has released 92 percent of Stanford customer brokerage accounts that were held at Pershing and JPMorgan and contained $4.6 billion in assets.
But more than 1,000 accounts are still frozen, leaving some customers with no funds to pay for necessities like medical bills, the examiner wrote.
A spokesperson for Janvey was not immediately available for comment. But also on Thursday, U.S. District Judge Godbey granted Janvey's motion to release accounts that received only "de minimis" proceeds from Stanford International Bank Ltd.
Janvey and his lawyers argued in prior court papers that that would speed up the process.
Little also said in the report that Janvey has no right to pursue "claw back" claims from customers who redeemed funds from certain accounts in the year before his appointment on February 17.
"The threat of such claims is adding significantly to the hardships already being imposed upon Stanford customers who have lost their CD investments and seen their other assets frozen for over three months," Little said in his report.
Janvey has said in previous court filings that he would consider filing claims to "claw back" proceeds received from the redemption or interest payments from CDs issued by the firm's offshore bank.
Reporting by Anna Driver in Houston; Editing by Richard Chang