Sat | Mar 25, 2023

Mark Wignall | Bolt must get back his money

Published:Sunday | January 22, 2023 | 1:00 AM
Usain Bolt
Usain Bolt

When the news broke a few days ago that significant US dollar-held funds belonging to Usain Bolt in a wealth-management account had been stolen, the nation froze and waited on the harsh, cold wind. Bolt’s loss was caught up with 40 other high-...

When the news broke a few days ago that significant US dollar-held funds belonging to Usain Bolt in a wealth-management account had been stolen, the nation froze and waited on the harsh, cold wind.

Bolt’s loss was caught up with 40 other high-net-worth individuals. The company was Stocks and Securities Limited (SSL). Bolt’s loss was close to a whopping US$13 million!

The Financial Services Commission (FSC), the regulatory agency, has loudly announced its abysmal failure by the sudden resignation of its executive director come the end of January.

Based on reporting, the FSC had identified problems with SSL more than a decade ago. Think about that.

The question must be asked: What were the strings that kept SSL economically ‘solvent’?

If negatives are seen in trying to answer that question, a bigger and more troubling question arises: Is it more likely than possible that the solvency of SSL took on more of a Ponzi-like face as the accounts of some clients were preyed on to satisfy the demands of those who requested funds from sale of the instruments held?

According to Usain Bolt, the funds invested in SSL were his retirement funds. Smart man that he is, he never withdrew any funds since his initial investment.

And because Bolt is smart, we have to assume that he uses other accounts here and abroad not just as instruments of investment, but also to handle his more liquid assets.

In 2008, when Bolt exploded on the international scene, he began to share the same iconic space as Bob Marley.

If history is a prelude to the present and tomorrow, we must remember that Marley was once shot by Jamaican gunmen. Maybe Bolt is now facing off with another type of Jamaican pain that hurts just as much and maybe for even longer.

By now, many would have seen the affidavit given by Jean-Ann Panton, the former ‘wealth advisor’ at SSL. The police have not yet collected a statement from her.

Writing in the online publication Jamaica Times, Andrew Clunis is of the view that SSL will not be able to survive this. He writes,

“Have you ever wondered why most of Jamaica’s top artistes live outside of the country? Apart from the ease of travel, many do not trust the Jamaican banking system.

“This story has gone global simply because it involves Usain Bolt, a true patriot, who has believed in his country and its institutions and has been shafted for playing by the rules. Jamaica already has a major international problem with corresponding banking arrangements, and this will make the problem even worse. Add to that the country’s reputation as a scamming paradise, and the scenario looks bleak.”


The giant footsteps of Mr Usain Bolt and the many attempts that are being made as you read this to ‘make him whole’, that is, to secure the loss of his investments in SSL, is likely to be the biggest headache ever felt by Finance Minister, Dr Nigel Clarke.

Clarke attracts a lot of attention in social, economic, and political circles. I see him as what a lot of people believe he is: a political rockstar.

At this moment it may suit him to shed that image. He will have to fling aside the fancy stage jacket, kick away the microphone, and roll up his shirt and grab a shovel. A whole lot of cleaning up is needed.

The minister knows that tourism is hitting all the right high notes now. For many years, foreign investors in the tourism industry in Jamaica have known that criminality in Jamaica has a ‘special’ relationship with tourism interests.

We cannibalise our own in violent crime, but we treat the tourist resort areas with kid gloves.

But what of other foreign investors? I ask this question because of the Bolt issue and one other very important matter.

That other matter is the trial of soldiers involved in the Keith Clarke killing.

You will remember that Clarke was killed in 2010 when it was rumoured that Dudus, then a notorious Jamaican fugitive wanted by the Americans on an extradition warrant, was on the run was, hiding out in Clarke’s house.

Now after many stops and starts, the case is about to start in February. Thirteen years after the death of Clarke. Think about that.

Foreign investors are concerned about three key factors: the health of the local financial sector, the health of the justice system, and the safety and security of their physical infrastructure and employees.

Foreigners would also like to be assured that there is speedy resolution in the justice system when conflicts arise.

With the Bolt lightning flashing red and the justice system stuck on red for decades, the need for joined-up government is greater than ever.


A friend of mine emailed me recently. “I am now convinced more than ever the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) did not increase by 1,300 in 2022, and in fact may have barely increased at all. It may have gotten smaller! Reference was made in the piece to resignations of 25 officers in one division alone. Just looking at the facts, it seems obvious that the JCF is sorely undermanned.”

On Wednesday last, the minister of national security and I had a telephone chat.

“Ideally, we would like to see the complement at about 18,000. We are at 13,000. Last year, we had about 600 [reduction in staff], which would fall under resignations, retirement, and death,” he said.

So in a year that saw an addition of 1,300, it would have netted 700.

The downside to this is that at many times, the JCF is showing to the public more of the youngsters than it would like.

Another email from a retired JCF officer said: “The entire JDF has been called out for the last few years to bolster the JCF. Most operations of any size and scope always feature soldiers. If we assume the JCF to be competent and properly trained and with sufficient equipment, then the presence of the JDF at many operations is either a lack of JCF manpower or the JCF cannot be trusted.”

- Mark Wignall is a political and public affairs analyst. Send feedback to and