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Mark Wignall | If only SSL troubles could go away

Published:Sunday | February 5, 2023 | 1:38 AM

Stocks and Securities Limited’s headquarters on Hope Road.
Stocks and Securities Limited’s headquarters on Hope Road.

He is my friend and a faithful reader of my columns. He is also an attorney-at-law classified by me as an invaluable resource in terms of legal advice.

According to him, the known parts of the SSL debacle are obvious while the puzzling bits are cause for generating important questions.

(1) Who took Mr Usain Bolt’s money? (2) Who took the money from the others who were fleeced? Was it only Ms Panton, or are there others involved? (3) What did the board of directors know and when did they know it? (4) What type of due diligence was done by SSL on the wealth advisers or client advisers they hired? (5) What did the FSC know and when? (6) What did the respective governmental administrations know in the time frame 2012 to the present, and when did they know it? (7) Why was there such a lack of action from the regulatory authority regarding SSL’s poor management?

As would be expected, the Government would like the matter to go away. One reliable source privy to many matters close to the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) Cabinet tells me that he has never seen key personnel there so concerned and troubled.

My lawyer friend says that “Finance Minister Nigel Clarke stated he never read or saw the 2019 report about SSL until very recently. Mr Clarke is a very busy man. Being finance minister is a very demanding job. He cannot read every report. It is impossible. I believe him. But why was he not made aware of the report in a more timely way? Someone must have been aware that the report was a major concern. Why was someone not assigned to read such reports and bring any irregularities to his attention?”

My friend has strong attachments to the People’s National Party (PNP), but he is able to recognise the sheer weight of the desk of finance.

I agree with him. Surely there had to be personnel attached to the Finance Ministry whose duty it would have been to push forward those matters deemed ‘red flag important’ and not let them slip off the edge of his desk.

I have been in the main office of quite a few ministers in my time. I am always in wonderment as to how they can navigate through the clutter.

We are agreed that much more needs to come out. It seems that this affair involves rich, powerful, well-connected people. As is normal in the historical expectations, people so delicately poised will not allow the truth to be revealed easily, and they have the resources and contacts to suppress the truth.

REVEALING OUR BAD BEHAVIOUR

It does not require the possession of multiple academic degrees to realise that the atrocious behaviour of our people in their driving habits comes closest in capturing the real Jamaican.

In your self-importance you may wish to claim that you are a well behaved, law-abiding Jamaican. In doing that you would be pained to explain your social separation from the mad man taxi driver.

I fully understand why public transport operators treat the public roadways like a mad scrimmage in their backyards. But they too must be aware that they can be held up as lawbreakers with no way out but to settle long-outstanding fines.

At the same time, if the Government is really interested in collecting instead of choking off and displaying the inefficiencies of collecting money, then the perfect example is being openly displayed.

But additional troubles persist. A close relative of mine showed me three traffic tickets imposed on him. He paid the fines and they still exist in the system as being unpaid. This is simply inefficient government at its best.

A few days ago he told me that “… the Whatsapp facility attached to the website is not fully functional. The court is not allowing representation. Significant numbers of people cannot renew their licences because of the unpaid tickets. This means that many people are driving without licences.

“When making enquiries at the police station, some people are not made aware if there is a warrant attached to the ticket.”

FACING OFF WITH USAIN BOLT

It defies everything that makes good sense. It has been reported that Ms Jean-Ann Panton, who has admitted to committing fraud while employed to Stocks and Securities Ltd (SSL), showed up at the offices of Mr Bolt not just to admit to him that his investments there had grown wings and flown to Arctic skies, but she also sought to borrow funds from him to pay back others who she had fleeced.

Whatever could she have been thinking? How would those funds be paid back? Did she expect Mr Bolt to laugh at a serious matter or to cast his eyes to the heaven and then stare in wonderment at the lady?

Was she preparing for a certain assessment of her psychological state at some time in certain proceedings?

It is quite possible that she wanted to bare her soul to the living icon. That she had heard that he was a most generous man. Surely, nothing could have come to her to indicate that the Hon. Usain Bolt was a fool. Nothing whatsoever.

I would imagine that in such an instance, normal, rational thought could become muddled with bolts of remorse, but something was obviously amiss. One writer used the word audacity to describe her approach. Rather kind I would think.

Being caught with one’s fingers in a huge cookie jar would discombobulate the toughest of us. But to sit down with a man who you fleeced and not opt for flight in shame is, well, quite puzzling. A one-way trip to the Arctic Circle, yes. All other options short of full restitution would be off the table.

- Mark Wignall is a political and public affairs analyst. Send feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and mawigsr@gmail.com.