Yesterday, Antiguans voted in one of their most contentious elections in years. Allen Stanford, who allegedly ran an $8 billion ponzi scheme, was closely aligned with the opposition party. Also yesterday, the judge in the Stanford case decided to continue freezing all of his assets.
Carrie Crotty is a New Orleans native who has lived in Antigua since 1973. Here is her story on what life is like post-"Sir" Stanford:
We first heard of the charges against Sir Allen Stanford while we were having lunch at his Sticky Wicket Restaurant.
It was eerily empty at that day, in contrast with the normal bustle of bankers from Stanford International Bank and Bank of Antigua who usually ate there. Sir Allen's face flashed across Bloomberg News with a banner, "Accused of massive ongoing fraud," flashing underneath. We sat there in disbelief.
Looking out at the green cricket field and the extraordinary gardens surrounding us, we knew it was the end of an era, the end to the unbelievable cash cow that was Allen Stanford's legacy in Antigua.
A few weeks earlier, 234 jobs had been slashed from Stanford's payroll and now, only a few weeks after that, the entire Stanford empire is operating with skeleton crews. The staff that maintains his grounds has been reduced to 31 from 85, and all the meticulous trimming of the expensive gardens has come to a halt. There is no credit to buy more gas for the lawn mowers, and only two cans of gas are left.
Allen Stanford took enormous pride in his gardens and millions of dollars went into their development. With their position right outside of our airport, the Stanford grounds gave Antiguans a huge sense of pride, as it is the gateway to our island. We have been spoiled by the money, and I doubt even the Antigua government could afford to maintain this billionaire's playground at the same level it has seen over the last ten years.
Two weeks ago, Parliament passed a motion to take back Stanford's property, about 254 acres. The four opposition party members--Stanford supported the opposition party--walked out in protest before the vote. The motivation for the government's takeover was a fear that the whole world would come in and taking hold of the lands surrounding our airport.
The general feeling is that Stanford does not deserve the lands, period, whether or not the SEC rules in his favor. Allen was always trying to acquire more lands. He bought Guiana Island to create a haven for billionaires. The required investment was $20 million, so to rally people to invest and support the project he held seminars explaining his vision, the jobs he would create and the money he would bring to the island.
He handed out bumper stickers that said "I BELIEVE" and cars everywhere were displaying them. You could always tell a Stanford employee from the "I Believe" sticker. Not too many are evident today! Luckily, not many investors have handed over $20 million each for a parcel of land on a piece of rock offshore. Stanford bought the island without having to go through Parliament, as he was an Antiguan citizen. These few thousand acres were not included in Parliament's recent motion to take over Stanford's properties.
I was in line at the pharmacy on the weekend and overheard an elderly Englishwoman talking about the fact she and her husband had sold their bed and breakfast in the U.K. and brought everything out to Antigua. They put it all in an SIB CD and intended to live off the interest. Now, they could not access any of their funds. She was very teary and the story was just one of many one hears around the island from ex-pats and locals alike.
I do landscaping and have maintained a few of Stanford's houses. When I took in my invoice for February, I was told that there was no money to pay it and not to expect it in the near future. I was also told to cease any work I was currently doing. My invoice was a drop in the bucket compared to what so many people I know have lost.
Another thing that has changed is security. There used to be a large security force protecting assets, but now, the yacht basin, Barnacle Point, and Stanford Aviation are empty. These were places the average person could not approach due to heavy security.
The mood here in Antigua is uncertain as to our future. It is for sure we have been spoiled by the lavish money Stanford threw around. The 20/20 Cricket match with its $20 million purse was the last big party. Another irony, a few of the players on the winning West Indian side vowed that evening to hand over their million dollar winnings to Sir Allen to invest for them.
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