Jamaica, indeed the world, wants to know what happened to sums claimed to be US$12.7 million invested by former sprint champion Usain Bolt in brokerage house Stocks & Securities Limited (SSL).
It now transpires that two former CEOs of SSL, Lamar Harris and Zachary Harding, during their respective tenures say they had no knowledge that Usain Bolt had sums invested with SSL.
“It was never, at any time, revealed nor brought to my attention that clients’ investment funds were misappropriated while I was CEO of SSL,” Harding said in a statement on the weekend.
CASE BECOMING MORE CURIOUS BY THE DAY
According to both, Bolt’s name never came up and it is all a mystery. Harris and Harding are in no way a part of or implicated in this case of chicanery, rather one needs to ascertain what they were aware of during their time overseeing SSL in a management leadership capacity.
The week before we heard the sums missing at SSL came to J$1.2 billion. Last week that jumped to J$3 billion. Heaven knows what it will be this week. Trust in financial sector companies is now an issue as we watch the drama unfold.
Like Zeus, Bolt has hurled lightning at Jamaica’s financial sector and the question is, ‘will it break the edifice?’
The case of Bolt’s missing funds becomes more curious as the days go by. A statement signed by SSL wealth manager Jean-Ann Panton, admitting she defrauded clients, makes no mention of Bolt or an entity connected to him and both Harris and Harding have gone on the record as knowing nothing to corroborate Bolt even had an account there.
Harding concedes that Bolt may have formed a limited liability company (LLC ) to make investments on his behalf and so his name would not readily come up. Nevertheless, as a large shareholder of said company, senior executives would be alerted to his presence.
It is established practice that senior management would know the top investors with their institution and would make especial efforts to monitor and track those transactions.
In the case of SSL, they were impervious. Why?
Could it be the case that Bolt gave money to associates to invest in SSL and they did not?
CLOSER ATTENTION TO INTEGRITY OF STAFF
Can it be that funds were given to a professional at SSL to invest and they unscrupulously used it for another purpose, making it difficult to detect?
The integrity of staff will now get closer attention as the number of fraudulent activities across Jamaica’s financial sector continues to attract attention.
Some now say one should never have poor people, and those from a certain socio-economic background, investing rich people’s money. That thinking is alarming even to contemplate and can be discussed at another time.
Jean-Ann Panton’s much publicised statement may very well have been an internal document and not part of the police investigation. She may know a lot more.
SSL were cognizant that something was awry but may have been tardy in bringing it to light in fear of negative consequences for the brokerage. It’s worst fears have now come to light and its reputation forever sullied. It will be near impossible to recover from this.
If Bolt’s money was invested in stocks and bonds that should leave a trail. Was Bolt’s name used to formulate a dummy account? Were the investments ever real or just an illusion?
With the scandal dominating the news, it would be propitious for the founder and head of SSL, Hugh Croskery, to come out and make a statement, perhaps declaring every effort will be made to make restitution to defrauded investors.
He has not and this is harmful to other brokerages in Jamaica. It begs the question, are your funds safe with these institutions?
When it comes down to it, hands are flung up in the air and no one has answers. That does not bode well for the financial sector.
FSC DID NOT MOVE WITH ALACRITY
Harding and Harris came out and explained their positions and that does credit to them. Now Croskery, the CFO and the auditors, need to provide answers. They should feel duty bound to do so and not refrain under advisement from lawyers.
The FSC did not move with alacrity to hold SSL to account and ensure investors funds were safe and secure. Why not?
Harding has said that he was alerted to a number of irregularities and worked with the regulatory body to address them. Again, a fulsome explanation is required here. The FSC has not taken any culpability and that is most disturbing. Bolt himself needs to draw attention to this.
It is clear that Bolt fell victim to white collar crime, scammed of his well and hard earned money.
The question though has to be asked: Were he and his managers diligently monitoring his accounts or were they caught by surprise due to a lack of vigilance?
“It was never, at any time, revealed nor brought to my attention that clients investment funds were misappropriated while I was CEO of SSL.
This must now be very concerning to Bolt. It is not that he is simply missing funds but rather a question of whether they even existed in the first place because the bosses had no idea they were even at SSL.
This could ultimately lead to a question of whether Bolt’s word will be taken on this situation?
As it now stands, it may transpire that he didn’t have investments with SSL, or, if he had, they were fictional.
Was someone at SSL using the company as a front or acting unbeknownst to Bolt in the guise of an SSL operative?
If that is the case, this presents frightening ramifications for the entire sector and should lead to a root and branch re-evaluation of the way it operates and how its personnel function on a daily basis.
The true malevolent actor here is yet to be revealed and may even evade detection , lost in the fog of speculation and conjecture.
Will Bolt and the other investors be able to retrieve their money? We all would like to see that, but that may be unlikely anytime soon. It’s a bitter pill to swallow and may lead to the ruination of some Jamaicans, just like the days of FINSAC which saw many go to the wall, never to recover.
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