U.S. diplomats took rumors of accused Ponzi schemer R. Allen Stanford so seriously four years ago that they made sure to avoid being photographed with him.
The embassy in Barbados referenced rumors that Stanford was involved in "bribery, money-laundering and political manipulation" in a 2006 cable, nearly three years before he was accused of bilking investors out of $7 billion in a Ponzi scheme, the Guardian newspaper of London reported Monday.
The disclosure comes from the trove of secret State Department cables released to a number of news outlets by the document-dumping website WikiLeaks.
The discovery of the cable comes as Stanford's trial nears its scheduled start date of Jan. 24, 2011. A psychiatrist working for the defense found the financier incompetent to stand trial, according to a report from The Associated Press. Prosecutors asked a federal judge Monday to order Stanford to be examined again, the AP reports.
The 2006 cable reported on a meeting the U.S. ambassador in Barbados had with Stanford and the Barbados prime minister, the Guardian reported.
Officials wrote, "Allen Stanford is a controversial Texan billionaire who has made significant investments in offshore finance, aviation, and property development in Antigua and throughout the region. His companies are rumored to engage in bribery, money-laundering and political manipulation."
The cable's author made sure to note that the ambassador "managed to stay out of any one-on-one photos with Stanford" and that embassy employees were told to stay away from him, the Guardian reported.
The cable adds to reports that the government knew about Stanford well before he was charged in February 2009. After Stanford was charged, the inspector general for the Securities and Exchange Commission found that the agency had suspected since 1997 that he was running a Ponzi scheme.
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