Venezuela Takes Control of Rogue Financier's Bank

Venezuela's finance minister said Thursday the country will take control of the bank owned by missing Texas financier R. Allen Stanford after nervous investors scrambled to remove their deposits.

Finance Minister Ali Rodriguez said the government is intervening to back deposits in Stanford Bank SA after U.S. fraud charges against other Stanford banking companies provoked a wave of withdrawals by customers in the South American country.

Rodriguez said the Venezuela-based bank will immediately be put up for sale and there is interest in acquiring it. Details of a potential sale were unclear.

Rodriguez told reporters that the "decision to intervene" came in response to "massive withdrawals" by investors.

Also Thursday, Peru's security regulator suspended operations of its Stanford Financial office in Lima for 30 days after panicked investors lined up to collect lost funds, Reuters reported. The regulator, CONASEV, said they were working to make sure clients got their money.

Federal regulators are charging Stanford and three of his companies with a "massive" fraud that centered around high-interest-rate CDs, but the disgraced banker has since disappeared.

The Securities and Exchange Commission's complaint, filed in federal court in Dallas, alleges that Stanford International Bank sold about $8 billion of so-called certificates of deposit to investors by promising "improbable and unsubstantiated high interest rates."

The rates allegedly allowed the bank to achieve double-digit returns on its investments for the past 15 years. U.S. District Judge Reed O'Connor entered a temporary restraining order and froze Stanford's assets.

The SEC's outgoing enforcement chief Linda Chatman Thomsen said Stanford and his family and friends "perpetrated a massive fraud based on false promises and fabricated historical return data to prey on investors."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.