HOUSTON, United, States, Thursday November, 15, 2012 – United States federal prosecutors have argued that two former accounting executives should be convicted of helping Allen Stanford - the failed Texas financier,conceal the theft of billions of dollars from investors at his offshore bank in Antigua and Barbuda.
The prosecutors have asked jurors to reject claims by ex-Chief Accounting Officer Gilbert Lopez, 70, and former Global Controller Mark Kuhrt, 40, that they were duped by Stanford and his finance chief into creating false financial statements.
Investors say they relied on those statements to buy US$7 billion of fraudulent certificates of deposit at Stanford’s Antigua-based Stanford International Bank (SIB) in what prosecutors described as a Ponzi scheme.
“Gil Lopez and Mark Kuhrt were faced with the same choice over and over again, to either help Allen Stanford lie to his customers and misuse their money or say ‘I don’t want to be part of it,’” said US prosecutor Jeffrey Goldberg in closing arguments on Wednesday.
Goldbery charged that the men chose to “keep it secret and actively work to keep others from finding out about it.”
Lopez and Kuhrt, who went on trial on October 17, are the last two Stanford executives to be criminally tried for their roles in the Ponzi scheme built on bogus certificates of deposit.
Prosecutors charged that early investors were paid above-market returns with funds taken from later investors, and the accountants helped cover up the Stanford bank’s insolvency for years before US securities regulators seized the operation in early 2009 on suspicion of fraud.
Stanford, 62, was convicted in March of masterminding the fraud scheme and is serving a 110-year sentence at a federal prison in Florida. He is appealing the verdict and his sentence.
Federal prosecutors told jurors that Lopez and Kuhrt meticulously tracked about US$2 billion that Stanford “sucked out” of the bank to fund risky private ventures including Caribbean airlines, resort developments and international cricket tournaments.
They charged that the accountants didn’t disclose these loans or additional funds that Stanford took to underwrite a lavish personal lifestyle of private jets, yachts and waterfront mansions.
Prosecutors charged that Stanford told investors that their money was invested in conservative liquid assets and overseen by international money managers.
They also said that Stanford and his top deputy, finance chief James M. Davis, secretly controlled more than 80 percent of the bank’s investments, most of which was loaned to Stanford or used to underwrite his other businesses.
“There’s no doubt whatsoever there was a massive fraud going on, but it was a Stanford and Davis fraud, not a Lopez and Kuhrt fraud,” Richard Kuniansky, Kuhrt’s lawyer, told jurors.
He charged that Stanford and Davis “withheld everything that was obviously criminal from their so-called partner in crime,” he said.
Jack Zimmermann, Lopez’s lawyer, also said that Lopez and Kuhrt were not in the loop.