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    'Stanford's greed led to $7 bln Ponzi scheme'

    Houston: Financier and cricket mogul Allen Stanford mocked his "gullible" investors as he built a $7 billion Ponzi scheme to fund a lavish lifestyle, US prosecutors said in closing arguments on Wednesday.

    "He regarded his depositors' money as his personal piggy bank," prosecutor William Stellmach told jurors in Houston, Texas, accusing Stanford of buying up regulators and bank examiners to keep his 20-year-long fraud going.

    "Even his own employees had no idea he had systemically stolen more than two billion dollars of his depositors' money to fund his own pet projects and failing businesses," Stellmach said.

    "He only disclosed about 20 percent of the bank's true assets to them."

    Stanford faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted of 14 counts of fraud, money laundering, conspiracy and obstruction.

    The 61-year-old has pleaded not guilty to bilking 30,000 investors from more than 100 countries through bogus investments with Stanford International Bank.

    The mustachioed ex-tycoon has spent the past three years in jail after being deemed a flight risk shortly after his February 2009 arrest.

    Badly beaten in a jailhouse brawl, the flamboyant Texan was temporarily declared unfit for trial after he became addicted to painkillers while also on antidepressants.

    He tried to have his case completely dismissed after claiming that the beating and drugs destroyed his memory, but a judge refused to believe him.

    In Antigua, Stanford was the island's largest employer and the recipient of a 2006 knighthood, but after the allegations against him surfaced, much of his support dwindled and the England and Wales Cricket Board severed ties with him.