CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — Venezuela's government hopes to appraise the value of a local bank controlled by Texas financier R. Allen Stanford within two weeks to put it up for sale, the country's finance minister said Wednesday.
Venezuela's government last week seized temporary control of Stanford Bank SA after panicked withdrawals on news of U.S. fraud charges against Stanford and three of his companies.
Though part of the Texas billionaire's Antigua-based empire, the Venezuelan bank is not named in the fraud complaint by U.S. regulators.
Venezuelan banking officials are studying the finances of now-closed Stanford Bank to "establish how much the bank is worth to proceed to an auction," Finance Minister Ali Rodriguez said in an interview with the Venezuelan television channel Televen.
"We hope it doesn't take more than 15 days" to finish evaluating the bank's finances and proceed to a sale, said Rodriguez, who has responsibility for overseeing the banking sector.
He reiterated that some have expressed interest in buying the Caracas-based bank without mentioning names. Rodriguez said the buyer would assume debts as well as shares.
It was unclear what would be done with the proceeds of a sale.
Clients who made a run on the bank withdrew an estimated $93 million, or 36.8 percent of its deposits, in Venezuelan currency.
Although the bank is now under the administrative control of President Hugo Chavez's government, the Texas financier remains its main shareholder — and his assets in the United States have been frozen by U.S. regulators.
Venezuela's banking superintendent has asked a court to freeze Stanford's assets in Venezuela as well as those of the local bank's six directors.
U.S. authorities have accused Stanford of leading a fraud scheme involving billions of dollars, in part through Stanford International Bank in the Caribbean country of Antigua and Barbuda.
Venezuelans seeking a safer haven for their dollars were important customers of that Antigua bank. Hernandez said Venezuelans had invested between $2.3 billion and $3 billion in the offshore bank.
Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.