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England and Windies suspend Stanford deals

THE England and West Indies cricket boards suspended sponsorship negotiations with financier Allen Stanford following "massive" fraud allegations against the Texas billionaire on Tuesday.

The US Securities and Exchange commission charged Stanford and three of his companies with alleged fraud involving a multi-billion dollar investment scheme.

"The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) and the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) have suspended negotiations with Sir Allen Stanford and his financial corporation concerning a new sponsorship deal," the ECB said in a statement.

Stanford came to prominence in the cricket world following his private Twenty20 competition in the Caribbean and, in particular, the US$20 million game in November between England and his own team made up of West Indian players.

A West Indian source said that the players had received their million dollar prize money from Stanford.

ECB chairman Giles Clarke said his organization was now weighing up the possibility of utilizing get-out clauses in its agreement with Stanford.

"Clearly that is a matter we would consider," he said before suggesting that the proposed quadrangular Twenty20 series in England in May was now unlikely to happen. "We will clearly consider that situation but we have suspended negotiations so there is a strong possibility it will not take place," he said.

Clarke said he understood that all monies due to have been paid out from the US$20 million game had been distributed. "All of the obligations with regard to the game that was played have been met and all the various people who were expected to do various things for that match have received their remuneration as far as we are aware," Clarke said.

Stanford, who has denied any wrongdoing, also has endorsement deals with golfer Vijay Singh and England footballer Michael Owen as well as involvement in golf and polo. PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem said the Stanford-sponsored St Jude Championship in Memphis, Tennessee, would go ahead in June as planned despite the developments.

"We have no comment regarding the situation with Allen Stanford and certain of his companies at this time. However, we want to categorically state that the PGA Tour event in Memphis will be played as scheduled this year," he said.

Antiguans expressed shock that their top investor was charged with fraud. The US Securities and Exchange Commission accused Stanford of operating an US$8 billion fraud centered around the sale of certificates of deposit offered by Stanford International Bank Ltd, his Antiguan affiliate. He owns the country's largest newspaper, heads a local commercial bank, is the biggest private employer, its top investor and is the first American to receive a knighthood from its government. He has homes sprinkled across the region - from Antigua to St. Croix in the US Virgin Islands to Miami.

Some Antiguans responded with skepticism to the news.

"I don't trust the Americans at all, we'll wait and see what our regulators say," said Winston Derrick, publisher of Antigua's Daily Observer newspaper. "Remember, the SEC doesn't regulate this bank," he said referring to Stanford's Antigua-based affiliate.


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