Defense relentless in questioning ex-Stanford exec

February 8, 2012 5:45:05 AM PST
Liar. Hypocrite. Adulterer. Fraudster. Coward.

In relentless and sometimes contentious questioning, an attorney for jailed Texas tycoon R. Allen Stanford has sought to paint the prosecutors' star witness in the financier's fraud trial as the true leader of a Ponzi scheme that authorities say took billions from investors.

Prosecutors allege Stanford led a 20-year scheme centered on the sales of certificates of deposit, or CDs, from his Caribbean bank on the island nation of Antigua and bilked investors out of more than $7 billion. But defense attorneys have tried to show that his former top money man, James M. Davis, was the one behind the alleged scheme.

Davis pleaded guilty to three fraud and conspiracy charges in exchange for a possible reduced sentence. Sanford attorney Robert Scardino told jurors Davis can't be trusted because he will say anything to avoid a lengthy prison term.

Scardino even used Davis' own words to try to illustrate their point that Stanford's former top money man is untrustworthy. The defense attorney used a large drawing pad on an easel next to the witness stand to write down terms Davis has used to describe himself during his testimony: liar, hypocrite, adulterer, fraudster and coward. The list of words stood next to Davis through much of his testimony Tuesday.

Testimony was set to continue Wednesday.

Davis repeatedly said he was telling the truth and would "rather spend the rest of my life in prison and be as free as I am now than to be bound the last 20 years as I was with Allen Stanford."

Stanford's attorneys contend the financier was a savvy businessman whose financial empire, headquartered in Houston, was legitimate and that he could have paid back investors if authorities hadn't seized his companies.

Authorities allege Stanford used depositors' money to operate his businesses, pay for his lavish lifestyle, and bribe regulators and auditors. They also say he lied to depositors by telling them their money was being safely invested.

Stanford is on trial for 14 counts, including mail and wire fraud, and faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted. Stanford was once considered one of the United States' wealthiest people, with an estimated net worth of more than $2 billion. He's been jailed without bond since being indicted in 2009.

On Tuesday, Scardino claimed it was Davis alone who altered financial statements and other documents and requested that bribes be sent to an auditor as part of efforts to hide the alleged fraud at the bank.

Scardino also accused Davis of stealing $6 million that had been transferred in December 2008 from a secret Swiss bank account held by Stanford.

Davis, 63, said he didn't steal the money and when questioned again by prosecutors clarified the $6 million had been transferred to another Swiss account held by Stanford's other bank on Antigua. Davis said the money remained there until it was seized by authorities in February 2009.

Scardino presented to jurors a memo Davis wrote in February 2009 ahead of a meeting with potential defense attorneys in which he praised the bank's operation's, called Stanford a "gifted individual" and wrote there was "never a hint of criminal intent."

Davis said when he wrote the memo, for a meeting both he and Stanford were to attend, he still hadn't come clean about the fraud.

"I was still spinning the fraud, still lying," he said.

Scardino also accused Davis of being a tax cheat and underreporting his income in 2006 by as much as $1.2 million. Davis said he's paid more than $120,000 in back taxes.