Venezuela says no plans to help Stanford investors
CARACAS (Reuters) - Venezuela is unlikely to help investors faced with the loss of billions of dollars deposited at the discredited Stanford International Bank, Finance Minister Ali Rodriguez said on Wednesday.
The OPEC nation's bank regulators say Venezuelans may have invested up to $2.5 billion in high-yield certificates of deposit at the Antigua-based unit of a global financial network owned by Texan billionaire Allen Stanford.
U.S. authorities have accused Stanford of carrying out a "massive fraud" by lying to investors.
Venezuela last week took over Stanford Bank Venezuela after a run on deposits sparked by the fraud charges weakened the otherwise healthy bank. Stanford Bank Venezuela is owned by Allen Stanford, but its accounts are not linked to the discredited offshore unit.
Finance Minister Rodriguez said Venezuela did not have a responsibility to protect investments made overseas.
"We respond to those savers who put their money in a bank that is regulated by Venezuelan laws," said Rodriguez during a televised interview.
"It would be difficult for us to take responsibility for investments that were made in banks that are regulated by other laws and policies," he said.
The government prosecutor's office on Wednesday said it had frozen the assets and bank accounts of eight directors of Stanford Bank Venezuela after prohibiting them from leaving the country as part of an investigation following the bank takeover.
Neither the government nor Stanford has offered an official figure on how much Venezuelans stand to lose, although most estimates put it above $2 billion. Lawyers in the capital of Caracas are actively canvassing with offers to recover savings.
Rodriguez said the Stanford fallout was linked to the global financial crisis, which socialist President Hugo Chavez has called a sign of the imminent collapse of capitalism.
Stanford International targeted upper-middle class and wealthy Venezuelans with promises of high returns and low risks, offering an alternative to Venezuela's galloping inflation and historically weak banking system.
Many say Chavez's aggressive socialist discourse led them to seek a safer haven for their cash.
(Reporting by Deisy Buitrago; Writing by Brian Ellsworth; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn, Bernard Orr)
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