SSL fraud deepens

The
multimillion-dollar fraud at investment firm Stocks and Securities Limited (SSL) deepened on Monday with the police Fraud Squad and Financial Investigations Division (FID) announcing that questionable transactions were being made on some of the affected accounts for more than a decade.

The revelation conforms with a statement given by the main suspect, and seen by the Jamaica Observer, indicating that on several occasions since 2012 she had made withdrawals from the accounts of at least three clients.

Stating that the matter is being treated “with the highest priority” by the FID, the Fraud Squad and the Financial Services Commission (FSC), Selwyn Hay, the FID’s chief technical director, said they are not yet able to quantify the exact amount fleeced from the affected accounts.

Last week when the Observer broke the story, sources said the fraud amounts to more than $1.2 billion and that Olympian Usain Bolt was among more than 30 people whose investments had been affected.

On Monday, the Observer reported that Bolt’s investment of just under US$10 million was almost totally wiped out, as there was only US$2,000 left in his account which he had opened in 2012 and from which he never made a withdrawal.

The FID, in its statement, said the case appears to be a complex matter for three main reasons:

– the number and types of accounts affected;

– the number and types of transactions conducted on the affected accounts; and

– the length of time during which questionable transactions were being made on some of accounts.

“All investigative steps are being taken,” Hay said, adding that all investigative tools and regulatory protocols are being applied in a purposeful manner by the FID, Fraud Squad and the FSC, Jamaica’s regulator for non-deposit-taking financial institutions, including securities dealers.

The FID statement came hours after the FSC announced it had appointed a special auditor to probe SSL’s operations.

The special auditor is part of the enhanced oversight embarked on by the FSC after it became aware of the fraud allegations at the investment firm.

In a release last week, the FSC said it had issued directions to SSL, as a supervisory tool, to allow it to engage the entity in a process of enhanced oversight.

“In the case of SSL, this enhanced oversight reflects the need for the FSC to have a full view of the integrity of the transactions being conducted, including the movement of funds, and of securities into and out of SSL.

“Under the directions, SSL can still conduct business on behalf of its clients but with the oversight and approval of the FSC. The FSC will simultaneously continue its investigations into matters related to SSL,” the regulator said.

On Monday, the FID said the investigation is still in its early stage as statements are being collected and interviews conducted.

“We wish to assure the public that the work into unravelling this fraud will be thorough with a view to identifying all connected parties and bringing them to justice,” the FID said.

Last Thursday SSL issued a statement saying that it had “become aware of fraudulent activity by a former employee of the company”.

The company said that following initial internal investigations it “referred the matter to the relevant law enforcement authorities to facilitate a thorough and complete examination of all aspects of the matter”. Added the company, “To ensure this, we have taken steps to secure those assets and strengthened internal protocols to detect suspicious activity in the shortest time possible.” The company also said it would “continue to liaise and cooperate fully with law enforcement throughout this investigation and ensure that the responsible party faces the full consequence of the law”.

Over the weekend an Observer source suggested that the magnitude of the fraud involved more than one perpetrator and the authorities are looking at that possibility.

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