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SSL fraud balloons past US$30m

Published:Thursday | December 7, 2023 | 12:10 AMTanesha Mundle/Staff Reporter
Stocks and Securities Limited
Selvin Hay, chief technical director of the Financial Investigation Division.
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The multibillion-dollar fraud and irregularities uncovered at Stocks and Securities Limited (SSL) have ballooned past US$30 million with more than 200 accounts impacted.

The Financial Investigations Division (FID) shared the update in a statement yesterday while noting that the investigation is ongoing.

However, the division laments that despite numerous appeals and direct means of communication, it has only received 23 official statements from affected individuals and entities.

So far, investigators have only arrested and charged one individual.

Jean Ann Panton, a former SSL client relationship manager, is facing a 21-count indictment charging her with forgery, larceny as a servant, and engaging in a transaction involving criminal property.

She is charged in relation to sums that were fleeced from the accounts of 40 clients, including the company owned by sports sensation Usain Bolt.

Panton, who was previously denied bail, reappeared in the Home Circuit Court yesterday and was remanded until May 27.

International probe

But the FID said: “The investigative process is far advanced, and we are now at the point where a file is currently with the prosecutors who are reviewing the evidential material with a view to discerning the possible charges.

“Notably, these investigations transcend national boundaries, with inquiries extending beyond Jamaica. Leveraging international mechanisms such as the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT) and employing informal channels like law enforcement-to-law enforcement inquiries, as well as capitalising on Jamaica’s membership in the Asset Recovery Inter-Agency Network for the Caribbean (ARIN-Carib) underscores the commitment to a thorough and comprehensive examination of the SSL matter.”

The agency however emphasised that the complexity of the investigation cannot be understated as it involves a comprehensive examination of events dating back to the inception of SSL in 2006.

“The meticulous inquiry requires a thorough analysis of the entire period, scrutinising the flow of investor funds. This process, by its nature, is time-consuming and deliberate.

“Presently, the findings indicate potential criminal and regulatory breaches involving both the company itself and individuals associated with it,” the FID further disclosed, while noting that “these matters are distinct from the ongoing court case, which centres on a prolonged fraud affecting numerous investors”.

‘In the meantime, the FID’s chief technical director, Selvin Hay is reiterating previous invitations to clients who have been affected by the irregularities to contact the FID via email at info@fid.gov.jm or via telephone at 876-928-5141-8.

“I must emphasise the critical role their cooperation plays in seeking justice through the courts. The FID remains committed to supporting the integrity of the financial system and will spare no effort in bringing all guilty parties to justice,” he said.

Case file complete

Turning back to Panton’s case, the court was informed that the case file had been completed as well as disclosure to the defence.

Panton’s lawyer, Sylvester Hemmings, while acknowledging receipt of the documents, noted that it was a lot of material to go through and that he was yet to take further instruction from his client.

Hence, a date was set in May to give him time to comb through the documents and get further instructions.

According to a signed statement made to SSL dated January 7, 2023, Panton admitted that she “used various mechanisms to take money from clients” and that she “created false statements to provide to the clients reflecting what they should have in their accounts and not the sum they actually had in their accounts”.

The money was taken “over the course of several years” and the value of the client accounts, with the exception of Bolt’s company, Welljen Limited, was over $700 million.

Panton said she took approximately 20 per cent of that sum, in addition to another $109 million.

Welljen Limited opened an account with SSL in 2012. However, the account’s value plummeted from J$2 billion (US$12.7 million) in October 2022 to J$1.8 million, or US$12,000, in January this year when the fraud was uncovered.

Bolt has not recovered any of the money.

tanesha.mundle@gleanerjm.com