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Antigua to strip accused Stanford of knighthood

MIAMI (Reuters) - Antigua and Barbuda is set to revoke the knighthood it gave Texas financier Allen Stanford, who is awaiting trial on charges he operated a $7 billion fraud using his bank on the twin-island Caribbean nation.

Allen Stanford, the former billionaire accused of a $7 billion fraud, leaves federal court in Houston after a hearing October 14, 2009. REUTERS/Richard Carson

Antigua and Barbuda’s Labor, Public Administration and Empowerment Minister Jacqui Quinn-Leandro, who chairs the country’s National Honors Committee, said on Monday a recommendation to strip Stanford of the knighthood had been sent to Governor General Dame Louise Lake-Tack.

“We’ve heard the cries of the general public about the honor being brought into disrepute,” Quinn-Leandro said in comments quoted by the Caribbean news agency CANANEWS after an independence day ceremony in the former British colony.

“Sir” Allen Stanford received the knighthood conferred by Antigua and Barbuda’s government in 2006, at a time when he was the tiny Caribbean country’s biggest foreign investor and a major sponsor of cricket and other sports in the region.

In February, his financial empire collapsed after he was accused by U.S. investigators of using his bank on Antigua and Barbuda to orchestrate an alleged $7 billion Ponzi scheme.

Stanford denies the charges and is awaiting trial in the United States.

The government of the nation of around 85,000 people has said the Stanford scandal caused financial losses and job layoffs, as well as damaging its image as an offshore finance destination.

Quinn-Leandro told CANANEWS that the six-member honors committee had voted unanimously to strip Stanford of the knighthood.

She added that the move to revoke the knighthood was not based on a judgment of Stanford’s guilt or innocence but on the embarrassment brought to the nation by his indictment.

If the governor-general signs the withdrawal of Stanford’s knighthood, a move seen as a formality, it would be the first time that Antigua and Barbuda has revoked such an honor awarded to an individual.

Reporting by Pascal Fletcher, editing by Will Dunham