Speaking before a Houston business group and professing his innocence, former Enron Corp. chief executive Kenneth Lay blamed the energy company's chief financial officer for its infamous 2001 collapse.

According to reports, Lay pointed the finger at former chief financial officer Andrew Fastow, who pleaded guilty to several charges in January, including stealing $60 million from the company, and was sentenced to 10 years in prison. Fastow is expected to be the star witness against Lay in a trial slated to begin Jan. 17.

Lay will face conspiracy, fraud and false-statements charges along with former Enron chief executive Jeffrey K. Skilling and accounting chief Richard A. Causey. Reports say that the trio are attempting to build a defense that the company was a fundamentally sound business brought down by liquidity problems after trading partners lost confidence following the 2001 terrorist attacks and the implosion of tech stocks.

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