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Judge orders Stanford lawyers to stay on

(Reuters) - A federal judge in Houston said a team of attorneys representing Allen Stanford, who is accused of running a $7 billion Ponzi scheme, must stay on the case despite their request to withdraw.

U.S. District Judge David Hittner wrote that Stanford's attorneys have been on the case long enough to prepare for Stanford's criminal trial, which will proceed as planned with jury selection beginning on January 23.

"We are preparing for trial as best we can," Ali Fazel, Stanford's attorney said.

Earlier this week, Fazel and his partner Robert Scardino asked to be taken off the case, citing time and budgetary constraints. The attorneys were appointed by the court after Hittner declared Stanford indigent.

Stanford also spent more than eight months in a North Carolina prison hospital last year in treatment for an addiction to an anti-anxiety medication after he was ruled unable to assist in his defense.

Stanford, now back in jail in Houston, was declared fit for trial on December 22.

In a separate order, the judge also refused to dismiss the indictment against Stanford after his attorneys argued it violated the former Texas financier's rights under the U.S. Constitution.

Stanford, 61, is accused of bilking investors with fraudulent certificates of deposit issued by his offshore bank in Antigua. He has denied any wrongdoing.

The case is USA v. Stanford et al, U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas, No. 09-00342.

(Reporting by Anna Driver in Houston and Jon Stempel in New York; editing by Bernard Orr and Andre Grenon)

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