Former Swiss president quits Stanford board

ZURICH Wed Feb 18, 2009 4:15pm GMT

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ZURICH (Reuters) - Former Swiss President Adolf Ogi said he is stepping down from the advisory board of Stanford Financial Group after Texas billionaire Allen Stanford and three of his companies were charged with fraud.

"When I heard of the allegations I informed the Stanford Group that I resigned with immediate effect from the advisory board," Ogi told Reuters.

"I don't even want to wait for a judgement or discussions, I don't want to be associated with this sort of news."

He said he had joined the board in April 2008, and had attended two meetings to date, in Washington and in New York.

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission accuses Stanford, a high-profile cricket promoter, and two executives of fraudulently selling $8 billion (5.6 billion pounds) in high-yield certificates of deposit in a scheme stretching from Texas to the Caribbean.

Ogi said he was invited to join the Stanford advisory board after making a speech in Geneva in his position as a U.N. adviser on sport at which staff of Stanford were present.

He said he had sought information on other advisory board members before joining and that this had given him confidence in the work of the board, where he advised on sports projects aimed at fostering development and peace.

Stanford also set up a European operation in Zurich. Employees at the Zurich office declined to comment on the investigation on Wednesday, referring queries to the United States.

When Ogi was appointed to the Stanford advisory board in April last year, he said in a statement: "I am proud to be involved with a financial services group that also understands the importance of improving communities through philanthropy."

Ogi, a member of the right-wing Swiss People's Party (SVP) and former director of the Swiss Ski Federation, was Swiss president in 1993 and 2000. He was appointed special U.N. Special Adviser on Sport for Development and Peace in 2001.

Stanford, a 58-year-old Texan running the firm that his grandfather founded, has denied any wrongdoing.

Stanford's property holdings and celebrity associations drew comparisons with Wall Street financier Bernard Madoff, who was charged in December in a suspected $50 billion fraud.

(Editing by Sharon Lindores and David Cowell)

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