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  1. Wealth
February 24, 2009

Stanford's real victims

By Spear's

Tragedy is very bonding, and globalization has meant that we are all bound together.

Tragedy is very bonding, and globalization has meant that we are all bound together in the tragedies wrought by banking fraudsters. The latest of these is that wrought by the charismatic Texan not-so-billionaire-after-all Robert Allen Stanford.

My husband, a cricket maniac, was enthralled by the landing of Stanford’s emblazoned rent-a-chopper in the middle of Lord’s, while I was disgusted by the rent-a-WAGs landing on his lap and giggling like idiots while their significant others battled it out on the pitch for the nonexistent $20 million.

But now the Stanford experience has unified us in another way: while British cricket fans reel from their gullibility, so do my countrymen: Venezuelans provided around $3 billion of Sanford’s $8 billion fraud.

Now there are armed police officers and glum faces lurking outside the impressive and shiny gold entrance to the Stanford International Finance building in Caracas and Caraqueños are wondering how this could happen.

I’ll tell you how this happened: chavistas. Despite Hugo Chávez, or, in some cases, because of him, there is a lot of money be made in Venezuela, especially by those close to the government.

Most of these nouveaux riches are not sophisticated in the intricacies of wealth management strategies and are easily lulled by anyone who can guarantee safe passage into a hard currency (through dollar-denominated certificates of deposit from Antigua) and a 14% ROI in a nation where there are currency restrictions, an inflation rate over 30% and unpredictable economic policy under an autocratic leader.

Fear of chavistas is part of the cause, but then they are also amongst its victims. I would say that there is poetic justice in this, except it only means that Chávez has now dropped his investigations into account holders and the bank’s practices and has instead made his finance minister, Ali Rodriguez, parrot the phrase: “Venezuela’s banking system is totally stable.” Plus ça change. And that may be the greatest tragedy of all.

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