Prime Minister Andrew Holness says he is “thoroughly disgusted and upset” by allegations of significant fraud engulfing Stocks and Securities Limited (SSL), where sprint legend Usain Bolt is among the victims of the reported irregularities at the entity.
“While I understand the hurt and upset all Jamaicans feel at this time, I urge the public not to fuel panic through speculation and baseless assertions,” said Holness.
The prime minister’s condemnation of the alleged fraudulent activities and subsequent statement to the public come days after Jamaicans have clamoured for him to denounce the acts, and amid the Jamaica Constabulary Force’s Fraud Squad and the Financial Investigations Division (FID) conducting searches on Friday of two premises connected to Jean-Ann Panton, a suspect in the alleged fraud racket at SSL.
The FID, in a statement on Friday, said Panton would be taken in for questioning with a view to having criminal charges proffered against her.
Holness, in a statement on Friday, said he received a general briefing on the fraud case from the Minister of Finance and the Public Service, Dr Nigel Clarke; representatives of the Financial Services Commission (FSC), the FID, the Commissioner of Police, Major General Antony Anderson; and the Attorney General’s Department.
He said the briefing is important to properly inform and guide any public pronouncements he makes on the matter.
“Like all Jamaicans, at home and abroad, I am thoroughly disgusted and upset by revelations in the public domain surrounding this matter,” declared Holness.
“I am very concerned and sympathetic to all those hardworking Jamaicans who, at this moment, are uncertain of the status of funds they have invested with the institution in question,” the prime minister continued.
“While every investor’s distress must be equally acknowledged, there is a dimension of a heightened public sense of betrayal, which I share, that a national Icon who has brought so much pride to all of us, is also a victim of the alleged fraud,” he added.
Having had the benefit of the briefing, Holness said he can “confidently” say to the nation that all the relevant Government entities are seized of the urgent nature of this matter, the great public concern, and the suffering of the victims.
“I am satisfied that the entities understand the implications and the potentially complex nature of this matter, and the need for transparency, diligence and prudence in all their operations,” he assured, adding that, “The coordination, within the law, among the various entities was also evident, which is a good sign for efficient and timely action.”
Meanwhile, Holness echoed the disclosure of the finance minister and law enforcement agencies that a thorough investigation is being undertaken to identify the perpetrators and colluders in the fraudulent activities.
Dr Nigel Clarke
This, he said, is being done with a view to “bring them to justice, as well as to trace the funds and secure forfeiture of assets acquired with stolen funds.”
Added the prime minister: “The affected investors and the public can be assured that the investigative and prosecutorial agencies have the necessary competencies and resources, and have already started to act decisively to gather information and evidence.
“No effort will be spared in uncovering the full extent of fraudulent activity and in bringing the perpetrators to justice.”
Holness added that while the matter has sparked immediate fear and general concern, “there is absolutely no need for panic about the strength and soundness of the financial system as a whole.”
According to him, “As a result of significant reforms implemented over the last two decades, Jamaica has a strong and vibrant financial system in which the public can have confidence.”
He pointed out, too, that Jamaica is recognised as “the leading financial market in the region and a source of competitive advantage for us.
“The public can rest assured that the Government will be proactive in ensuring that there is accountability and probity in the exercise of public functions, and that our policy and administrative response is effective in continually strengthening the financial sector and protecting the investing public,” Holness indicated.
He said the Finance Minister has already announced that he will update the public on certain policy and administrative actions that the Government has already decided to give effect to.
“Given the potentially complex and litigious nature of these matters, the Government must ensure that it verifies every bit of information it gives to the public. This may sometimes create a short lag in updates and responses,” the prime minister informed.
“The public should also be aware that, for legal and other reasons, the authorities will not be able to respond to all assertions made in the public domain.
“This means that the public must exercise caution and patience in how they rely on unconfirmed information,” stated Holness.