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Scandal-hit Stocks and Securities Limited (SSL) has confirmed that its former employee, Jean-Ann Panton, made contact with the management team of retired Olympian Usain Bolt, asking for help with funds to replenish the very account of the sprint icon that has been depleted, and for which the company said Panton had sole responsibility.
That information has been in the public domain for the past two weeks, but has now been confirmed by SSL. The beleaguered company also confirmed that Bolt’s account, which was reportedly fleeced of nearly US$13 million or J$2 billion, was in the name of Welljen, a limited liability company.
In a lengthy statement issued Wednesday, SSL said its board and management were making the public statement for the sole purpose of setting the record straight “in respect of some damaging and widely repeated inaccuracies which suggest, inter alia, that the SSL directors and management sought to dispose of assets in order to frustrate efforts by authorities to take control of same”.
“This is simply untrue,” the company declared.
In outlining what it said are the facts, SSL said it notified the Financial Services Commission (FSC) on January 10 about the “discovery of apparent fraud and of the immediate steps being taken”.
It identified an employee without naming Panton, stating that the client relationship manager was being investigated in relation to the fraud.
“The employee was interviewed by our attorneys on January 6 and 7, 2023 in the presence of her attorney and has admitted to wrongdoing. Other interviews are scheduled for the week of January 9, 2023, with known associates”.
SSL said it appeared that the employee amended and generated fraudulent client documents including encashment requests and statements to circumvent the internal protocols. It said efforts were being made to have the employee commit to restitution.
“The very next day, January 11, 2023, a representative of …Usain St Leo Bolt visited the offices of Stocks and Securities Limited and indicated that the said employee had turned up at their offices to confess that she had falsified statements provided to them, had stolen money from them and other SSL clients, and was requesting help from Bolt’s management team to repay the clients whose funds she had stolen,” said the statement.
According to SSL, the reasons for Panton not admitting to defrauding Bolt, as she did for 39 other clients in the staggering fraud that is estimated at $3 billion and climbing, is that (1) she was aware of the tremendous spotlight which the Bolt name would bring to bear on her activities, and (2) “amazingly, she, for whatever reason, and despite having admitted to the Bolt management team that …Bolt was among her victims, apparently still believed that she could borrow the money from the Bolt management group to repay the other SSL clients”.
SSL claimed ignorance of the Bolt account, insisting that “The very first point at which the company became aware that the fraud affected this client was when the member of the Bolt management team visited SSL’s office, the former employee having omitted any mention of this client in her initial confession”.
A former senior manager at SSL had earlier told OBSERVER ONLINE that the entire management team did not know of the Bolt account, because it did not show up as one of its high-value clients (those with balances of US$10 million and above). Also, it did not show up on any audit as those accounts would.
Yet, Bolt’s team has provided a statement sent to them by SSL which showed that he should have had a balance of close to US$13 million as of October 2022. His lawyers had given SSL until January 27 to make restitution or face legal action but that date as come and gone with no development on that front.
With Bolt involved, the SSL fraud has gone global, having been picked up by many large and small media organisations around the world including the BBC, NBC, Reuters among others.
The Jamaican Government has also requested help from the United States’ Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI), and international forensics experts to unravel what local investigators have said is a more than decades-long fraud.
According to SSL, when Bolt’s representative visited its offices, “the shock experienced by all was, and remains palpable”.
“While the company believed that the impact on the first identified 39 clients could be addressed with the cooperation of regulators, it was immediately apparent that the national and indeed, global stature of the last client (Bolt) impacted would likely make a measured and systematic approach to investigation very challenging indeed,” the securities dealer stated.
It is insisting that at the time it notified the FSC of the fraud it was unaware that Bolt was an investor via a holding company.
Meanwhile, SSL pointed out that it appointed a trustee on January 16 and the FSC appointed a special investigator and temporary manager on January 17.
“Practically, the FSC through their temporary manager has had control over the entity so SSL has not been in a position to respond publicly or clarify allegations,” said SSL while also dismissing claims that it attempted to wind up the entity in contravention of FSC instructions.
It said the FSC was notified of the appointment of the trustee on January 12 and discussions were ongoing.
The company outlined the following:
-Caydion Campbell of Phoenix Restructuring, Advisory and Insolvency Services Enterprise was appointed trustee under the Companies Act of Jamaica effective January 16
-SSL’s directors and shareholders met that day to confirm the appointment, in keeping with the work plan submitted to the FSC by management. It was the intention of the directors that their powers and authority be vested in the trustee and that the affairs of SSL would be under his control.
-The further intention was that the trustee and his team would conduct an independent business review (IBR) and other investigations into SSL’s operations to determine, among other things, its financial state of affairs as of January 16, 2023.
“The purpose of the appointment was not, we repeat, not to wind up the company. Among Mr. Campbell’s key objectives were intended to be to ensure that all necessary conservatory measures were in place over the assets of SSL, as well as to ensure compliance with the enhanced governance protocols as directed by the FSC. It was intended that he would also use the results of the IBR to explore the restructuring and reorganisation options that were available to preserve and enhance the value of the business, operations, and undertakings of SSL for the benefit of all its stakeholders,” the statement said (Jamaica Observer).