Stocks and Securities Limited (SSL) has been rattled by a highly “sophisticated” fraud operation involving the liquidation of over a billion Jamaican dollars in stocks and bonds held by more than 20 clients, including sprinting sensation Usain Bolt. As a result, the Financial Services Commission has expanded its monitoring and control over the investment business (FSC).
One of the largest heists in Jamaica’s banking industry is suspected to have been plotted by a former employee.
According to a Gleaner source acquainted with the investigations, the massive swindle that sent shockwaves across the country was only discovered late last week.
The former worker, who was under investigation for unrelated matters at the private firm, allegedly got in touch with Bolt management on Wednesday after the business’ internal controls discovered substantial abnormalities with a number of the accounts she used to oversee.
The management team of the multiple gold medalists at the Olympics and World Championships was then contacted by SSL to talk about the situation.
According to initial estimates, Bolt’s holding company-related portfolio has apparently been scammed of about US$6 million in stocks and bonds, while the losses to other clients amount to about US$4 million.
There were also apparently J$40 million worth of extra stocks and bonds that were stolen.
According to reports, the suspected scam went on for at least a year.
The police had taken over the company’s headquarters on Hope Road as of Thursday night, but they were unable to say when the former employee would be interrogated or perhaps prosecuted.
When The Gleaner called attorney-at-law Tamika Harris about the shocking development on Thursday, she chose not to respond. Harris is the attorney who is defending the former employee.
“My client is in discussions with SSL and the lawyers representing SSL. That is where we are.” Harris stated, “We’re in discussions.”
Nugent Walker, Bolt’s manager, told The Gleaner on Thursday that he was unable to “categorically state at this present time” the extent of the damage done to the now-retired track star and noted that investigations are still underway.
“But he does have an account there,” Walker noted.
He said that the situation came to his knowledge on Wednesday and that every attempt is being made to determine what really happened.
The FSC and the Financial Investigations Divisions were informed, he continued.
Up until Wednesday, according to Walker, Bolt had been receiving statements from SSL that showed everything with his portfolio was in order.
Walker claimed that Bolt, a corporate veteran of more than ten years, is going through a variety of emotions.
“Whatever services the company offers, he would have been exposed to,” he added.
For individuals, families, and small and medium-sized businesses, SSL stated it offers highly individualized, research-driven investment consulting services, with an emphasis on Jamaican customers.
“We have been a pioneer in the investment advisory services business by focusing on client-segregated accounts with an emphasis on US-dollar exposure for clients’ capital preservation and principal protection,” as noted on the company’s website.
Private wealth management and financial planning services are included in its investment advising offerings, which are provided by wealth managers and financial advisors.
The FSC said it had given SSL instructions in the form of a supervisory instrument to enable it to involve a party in a process of improved oversight. Since then, SSL must, among other things, provide daily logs of all transactions. This increased supervision in the case of SSL is a reflection of the requirement for the FSC to have a complete understanding of the integrity of the transactions taking place, including the transfer of money and securities into and out of SSL.
The regulator noted in a recent statement, “under the directions, SSL can still conduct business on behalf of its clients but with the oversight and approval of the FSC.”