Cricket mogul Stanford unfit to stand trial

Financier and cricket mogul Allen Stanford is unfit to stand trial on charges of running a $7-billion fraud and needs treatment for a drug addiction, a United States judge ruled on Wednesday.

“The court finds Stanford is incompetent to stand trial at this time based on his apparent impaired ability to rationally assist his attorneys in preparing his defence,” US District Judge David Hittner wrote in his ruling in Houston, Texas.

“The court’s finding that Stanford is incompetent, however, does not alter the court’s finding that Stanford is a flight risk.”

Psychiatrists for the government and Stanford’s team who testified at a hearing earlier this month concluded that he was suffering from bouts of delirium linked to his dependency on a strong anti-anxiety medication.

They found the 60-year-old was also depressed and incompetent to stand trial due to a brain injury he sustained during a 2009 jailhouse brawl, and recommended he be weaned off the drug.

Hittner denied a request by Stanford’s lawyers to release him on bond and place him in a private treatment facility for his addiction.

Instead, he ordered the inmate to be committed to the custody of the Attorney General to “undergo medical treatment for his current impaired mental capacity” and get a psychiatric evaluation.

The judge also recommended that the flamboyant Texan be sent to a medical facility within the US Bureau of Prisons, citing the Federal Medical Centre in Butner, North Carolina, where Wall Street swindler Bernard Madoff is currently serving a 150-year term for defrauding investors of $20-billion.

Indefinite postponement
The psychiatrists who examined Stanford found he was currently taking at least three medications to treat his depression and anxiety—clonazepam (Klonopin), mirtazapine (Remeron) and sertraline (Zoloft)—and that he was taking particularly high doses of clonazepam.

Clonazepam can be addictive when the body develops tolerance to the drug.

Stanford’s trial had been due to begin this week but was postponed indefinitely until he can be considered fit to prepare his defence for trial.

The financier has pleaded not guilty to 21 counts of fraud, money-laundering and obstruction. He faces up to 375 years in jail if convicted.

Lawyers for Stanford did not immediately return requests for comment.

A self-described “maverick”, Stanford hit international sports headlines by creating the eponymous Stanford Super Series Twenty20 cricket competition.

The $20-million winner-take-all match appalled many in the cricket world by challenging the sacrosanct traditional cricket establishment.

In Antigua, he was a larger-than-life figure, the island’s largest employer, and the recipient of a 2006 knighthood. But after the allegations against him surfaced, much of his support dwindled and the England and Wales Cricket Board cut ties with him.—AFP

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