The Socialist 24 February 2009 |
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ECB suffers Stanford hangover
WE ALL know the feeling. You've committed some indiscretion, possibly while under the influence of intoxicants, and now in the cold light of day when all the facts are revealed there is the humiliating prospect of facing derision from the world at large. At this point a person generally asks themselves: "How could I have been so stupid?"
Such thoughts must now be on the minds of the England Cricket Board (ECB) as they survey the wreckage from the multi-billion dollar fraud probe into Alan Stanford's former financial empire, now revealed to be closer to a rotten borough.
Stanford has been indicted in the US by the Securities and Exchange Commission for an $8 billion scam that bears striking similarities to the even bigger Bernie Madoff case. Like Madoff, investors were receiving returns almost double the market average. Both alleged fraudsters used tiny, unknown firms of auditors. CAS Hewitt audited Stanford's global enterprise out of a one-room flat in Enfield, north London.
Alan Stanford had bankrolled the ECB to the tune of £70 million. However unlike more modest sugar daddies like Roman Abramovich, who seem to be content simply to smile inanely from the corporate box (while of course exercising control from behind the scenes), Stanford demanded, and got, an almost endless publicity circus from the ECB.
Who could forget the sight of Alan Stanford landing at Lords cricket ground in a gold plated helicopter and disembarking with transparent coffers filled with $20 million?
On that day the hallowed turf of the English upper classes, so long the epitome of values that supposedly separate the rich from the common herd; 'decorum', 'style' and 'class', were turned into a gaudy spectacle to one man's ego.
The Evening Standard commented in that understated tone usually reserved for members of the elite caught out in bad behaviour: "The gesture instantly identified him as a man who likes to make a statement". Indeed.
Not content with larging it at Lords, Stanford then outdid himself a few months later at the Stanford Cup in Antigua.
This was a one-day cricket match between England and a selection of West Indies players surprisingly named the Stanford All-Stars. The fact that England was crushed by ten wickets was secondary to the images, flashed around the world, of Stanford cavorting with players' wives in his lap.
Readers of The Socialist will be well aware of the tut-tutting and harrumphing that goes on in the capitalist press at the vulgarity and greed of working-class professional footballers.
We are also assaulted daily with headlines decrying benefit fraud and petty larceny. Socialists have always known that these vices are inevitable at all levels in society when we live in a system dominated by the pursuit of money.
However, this whole sorry episode illustrates that, far from being 'the masters of the universe', when it comes to vulgarity, greed, selfishness, fraud and deceit no-one does it bigger or better than the upper classes.