DPP Llewellyn, Clarke ‘trade words’ with Golding on SSL fraud probe Loop Jamaica

The content originally appeared on: Jamaica News Loop News

Amid a clash of words between Opposition Leader Mark Golding and Finance and the Public Service Minister, Dr Nigel Clarke, over the perceived slow pace of the ongoing probe into the multi-billion-dollar fraud at Stocks and Securities Limited (SSL), Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Paula Llewellyn has said her office cannot “sacrifice” accuracy on the altar of “expediency”.

In fact, Llewellyn said her office reserves the right to make an independent assessment of the case in a timely manner.

She underscored, in a statement on Friday, that her office is still awaiting outstanding documents from the Financial Investigations Division (FID), therefore, it cannot make a ruling in cases of this nature without the file being completed.

“Though we understand and share the concerns of all well-thinking members of the public to hold criminal offenders to account in financial crimes, we cannot sacrifice accuracy and quality preparation on the altar of expediency,” declared Llewellyn.

Her comments followed accusations by Golding that the DPP’s office has been “dragging its feet” on the case.

In completing his Budget Debate presentation outside Gordon House on Tuesday following a walkout by Government members, Golding questioned the lack of information from the DPP’s office on the case.

Jean-Ann Panton, a former employee at SSL, is the only person to have been charged in relation to the multi-billion-dollar fraud probe.

“Jamaica’s iconic global track superstar, the Honourable Usain Bolt, and many other innocent investors were carried down in the scandalous SSL fiasco, and we can’t hear anything about charges being brought against the responsible culprits,” said Golding.

Mark Golding

“I have been told that the DPP’s office is dragging their feet when there are a number of people that the Financial Investigations Division are seeking to bring charges against,” he further alleged.

But Clarke fired back at Golding regarding those comments, accusing him (Golding) of “desperately grandstanding” on the SSL matter.

“He (Golding) is not responding to the facts, but instead, responding to a fabricated set of circumstances,” said Clarke in a statement on Wednesday.

“With respect to the investigation, our policy has been crystal clear from the beginning, and it is to leave no stone unturned, to follow the evidence wherever it may lead, and to get international help,” the minister said, adding that the Government took the unprecedented step of procuring the services of international auditing firm Kroll Associates.

As such, Clarke said it “would not serve the cause of justice” to speak about any of the findings of the Kroll report before it goes to court, This after Golding called for the findings to be released.

The minister said he is “highly confident that any time now, shortly, very soon, at some point in the near future,” the DPP will make a ruling in the matter.

On Friday, Llewellyn, who was seemingly responding to Golding, although she made no mention of his name, said that “there are outstanding documents which are beneficial (in the SSL case), that have not yet been obtained from the FID Investigators.”

In outlining the steps in the case so far relative to the ODPP’s (Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions) involvement in the matter, the island’s chief prosecutor said the first set of documents in the case were submitted to her office in November of 2023.

Since that time, Llewellyn said her office and the FID have had meetings to discuss the file and provide guidance to the investigators in relation to the outstanding material.

“The last set of documents received from the FID was on March 6, 2024, and thereafter, a meeting was arranged for the end of March to discuss all the materials submitted thus far,” the DPP informed.

The case file is comprised of over 3,000 pages of documentary material, said Llewellyn.

She added that each time additional material is submitted, the four-member ODPP team has had to review the file in its entirety, making an assessment about what material is outstanding, which offences may arise, and whether the office will be able to mount a viable prosecution based on the material.

“The ODPP prides itself on providing proper, accurate advice and prosecution outcomes resulting from appropriate assessments of the circumstances and the law in all matters,” said Llewellyn.

Added the DPP: “It is never advisable to prepare a ruling, especially in matters of this nature, based on an incomplete file.”

Moreover, she said it is “imperative” that prosecutors have sufficient material which meets “the evidentiary threshold” as a matter of law, to prove all the elements of each offence while establishing a nexus between the offences and the offender beyond a reasonable doubt.

The DPP said despite the high public interest in the case, it will publish no further information relative to the probe, including further details of its discussions with the investigators.

Dr Nigel Clarke              

“All evidentiary material, (and) reports in the investigation should be kept confidential as between the prosecutors and investigators, lest it undermines the prosecution’s ability to move forward successfully,” Llewellyn indicated.

Meantime, Llewellyn said she is looking forward to completing the ruling on the matter and communicating advice to the FID, “who would subsequently communicate these findings to the public at an appropriate time of their choosing, given the sensitivity of these investigations and the possible consequences of our advice.”

On January 12, 2023, news broke that millions of dollars reportedly went missing from Bolt’s account at SSL, which subsequently led to a multi-agency fraud probe that resulted in Panton, a former wealth advisor at the firm, being charged.

The accused woman last appeared via video link in the Home Circuit Court in downtown Kingston on December 6, 2023, the same morning the Financial Investigations Division (FID) issued a statement in which it disclosed that more than 200 affected accounts and a staggering US$30 million have been linked to fraudulent activities among SSL clients’ funds.

Panton, for her alleged role in the SSL fraud, is charged with numerous breaches of the Larceny Act, the Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA), the Forgery Act, and the Cyber Crimes Act.

A case management hearing in the matter is to continue on May 27, 2024, and Panton is to remain in custody until then.

She has been behind bars since she was first arrested in February of last year.