Finance Minister: No stone will be left unturned in SSL fraud probe Loop Jamaica

The content originally appeared on: Jamaica News Loop News

Minister of Finance and Public Service Dr Nigel Clarke says no stone will be left unturned in the investigation into the alleged fraud at local investments firm Stocks and Securities Limited (SSL).

Dr Clarke is also assuring that there will be full transparency around SSL’s regulator, the Financial Services Commission (FSC) and its role and decisions in the matter.

The finance minister’s statement came on Thursday after he announced the resignation of the FSC’s executive director Everton McFarlane.

McFarlane tendered his resignation a day after hosting a press briefing that left the media with several unanswered questions about the commission’s oversight of SSL.

“There will be full transparency. No stone will be left unturned in unearthing exactly how funds were allegedly stolen, who benefited from such theft and who organised and collaborated in this,” Dr Clarke said in a statement late yesterday.

The minister also pronounced that the directors and managers of SSL must account for their stewardship.

“There are many questions to be answered, such as the time period between becoming aware of this fraud and informing the regulatory and investigative authorities and the actions taken in the interim, among other matters,” Dr Clarke said.

Dr Clarke said the probe would seek to identify whether assets have been acquired with the proceeds of this fraud.

He added that if and when such assets are identified, all legal steps will be taken to restrain these assets with the intention to fill forfeiture.

Business recovery expert Kenneth Tomlinson was this week appointed temporary manager of SSL. He is to make a recommendation on how to handle SSL.

The recommendations could include restoring the institution to its board of directors or owners or petitioning the court for the winding up of the institution, as prescribed under Section 8(b) of The Financial Services Commission Act (2001).

Eight-time Olympic champion Usain Bolt is among several individuals whose Jamaican and US dollar investment accounts have been affected in the reported fraud at SSL.

The investigative bodies–the police Fraud Squad and the Financial Investigations Division–have indicated that, as of now, they are unable to quantify the exact amount of the fraud.

Based on preliminary updates, a number of elderly investors are among those allegedly defrauded in the SSL matter.

“On behalf of the Government of Jamaica, we empathise with all investors who have been impacted in this way and particularly those of advanced age, who at some time in the past, brought their working years to a close,” Dr Clarke said.

Bolt, a retired athlete, had invested significant sums, reportedly towards his “self-designed pension”.

His law firm of Frater, Binns and Gordon told SSL that Bolt’s account contained in excess of US$12 million (J$1.8 billion) as at October 31, 2022. However, the account currently contains US$12,000 (J$1.8 million).

The finance minister, in the meantime, requested public understanding and patience amid the investigations by the Financial Investigations Division (FID) and the Fraud Squad, which he said have operational independence to pursue this investigation, wherever it may lead.

“While the feelings and expressions of shock and revulsion are fully justified, a lot of speculative comments and assertions on social media are inaccurate, and some extreme claims seem fueled by perverse motives,” Dr Clarke said.