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Antigua Strips Disgraced Billionaire of Knighthood

Disgraced Texas financier R. Allen Stanford is being stripped of his knighthood in the Caribbean nation of Antigua and Barbuda, the head of the government panel that approves the awards said Monday.

The National Honors Committee voted unanimously to revoke Stanford's title for embarrassing the nation by running an alleged Ponzi scheme out of his Antigua-based offshore bank, Chairwoman Jacqui Quinn-Leandro said.

Stanford, once a benefactor of the Antiguan government, is in jail in Texas awaiting charges for allegedly defrauding some 28,000 investors out of $7 billion by selling them what U.S. authorities say were bogus certificates of deposits.

"It's not that we're saying he's guilty, but it's the honor that has been brought into disrepute," said Quinn-Leandro, also a member of Parliament.

Stanford received his knighthood in 2006 from the governor general -- the representative of Queen Elizabeth II in the country -- and was widely known as "Sir Allen" in the Caribbean nation. Critics have alleged he used the title's prestige to help lure investors to buy CDs from his offshore bank while promising rates of return that were consistently higher than most financial institutions.

A group of investors has filed a lawsuit against Antigua and Barbuda alleging that local authorities failed to adequately monitor Stanford International Bank Ltd. and profited from the fraud. The financier provided loans to the government and became the country's largest private employer, with businesses that included a development company, cricket stadium, newspaper, an airline and two restaurants.

Quinn-Leandro said the six-member honors committee, made up of senators and members of Parliament, voted last month and formally informed Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer of its decision in an Oct. 26 letter, but did not make a public announcement.

All that is required next is for Spencer to forward the decision to the country's governor general for a signature, but that is considered a formality.

Stanford, who was nominated for his knighthood by the opposition Antigua Labor Party, was cheered and booed when he received the award, according to newspaper accounts from the time. Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer, who still holds the post, remained seated as he shook the financier's hand during the ceremony and called the honor "most unfortunate."

As a member of the British Commonwealth, Antigua and Barbuda can propose its own knighthoods to the Queen through the governor general, though the honor is considered a local one.