FBI called in

JAMAICA’S law enforcement agencies probing the multi-billion-dollar fraud at securities dealers Stocks and Securities Limited (SSL) have asked the United States’ Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) for assistance, Finance Minister Dr Nigel Clarke told the country on Monday.

Clarke also said that today he will reach out to Jamaica’s overseas partners in order to include forensic auditors in the investigation of what is being described as the largest fraud in the island’s history and which the Financial Investigations Division (FID) has said started more than a decade ago.

“Based on the magnitude of this fraud and the lines of enquiry being pursued, the FID and the Fraud Squad last week sought assistance from the Federal Bureau of Investigations and other international partners,” Dr Clarke said while giving a special policy address at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, downtown Kingston, on regulation of the financial sector in light of the SSL fraud case.

“Today I will write to our international partners, who have traditionally provided support to the Financial Investigations Division and other law enforcement agencies to specifically request the assistance of international forensic auditors to help unravel this 13-year fraud so we can bring to justice all perpetrators and all co-conspirators,” Dr Clarke said.

The main suspect in the fraud has indicated in a document that she started taking money from clients’ accounts from as far back as 2010. It is estimated that billions of dollars have been fleeced from at least 40 accounts, one of which was opened by Jamaican Olympic legend Usain Bolt via a limited liability company.

Bolt’s attorneys have said his account, which at October 31, 2022 was showing a balance of US$12.7 million, has been depleted to US$12,000. The sprint great has given SSL until January 27 to return his money or face legal action.

On Monday, Clarke did not name the other overseas law enforcement partners contacted by the Jamaican authorities. At the same time, he described the fraud as alarming, saying that it has “shocked the soul of Jamaica”.

“The anger and unease we all feel have been magnified by the long duration — 13 years — over which the fraud was allegedly perpetrated, and the fact that the perpetrator, or perpetrators, seemed to have deliberately and heartlessly targeted elderly persons, as well as our much-loved and respected national icon Ambassador Usain Bolt,” the minister said.

He admitted that coverage of the matter “in every major media outlet across the globe”, was “a source of great embarrassment to Jamaicans here and in the Diaspora. I feel the full range of emotions and disgust, hurt, and, like many Jamaicans, I am deeply pained by these events”.

He also said that over the past 30 years, Jamaica has failed to arrest and prosecute people who have been criminally responsible for a number of fraudulent schemes, among them Cash Plus and Olint.

“Similarly, persons allegedly responsible for public sector frauds, over much of the last 30 years, have escaped the punishment regularly meted out to others,” he conceded.

He promised that “there will be full transparency in this matter” and “no stone will be left unturned”.

The investigative authorities, he said, have full operational independence “and will pursue the facts wherever they may lead”.

“They will unearth exactly how funds were allegedly stolen, who benefited from such theft, and who organised and collaborated in this. The probe will also seek to identify whether assets have been acquired with the proceeds of this fraud. If and when such assets are identified, all legal steps will be taken to restrain these assets, with the intention of full forfeiture,” Dr Clarke said.

He added that, having spoken with some of those leading the investigation, “I can say that they are resolute and determined to unravel its complexities and bring all responsible to justice.”

He insisted that, despite this “most unfortunate development”, the Jamaican financial sector remains strong and resilient.

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