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Shock and outrage as laptops vanish in robbery at fraud-hit firm

Published:Friday | December 8, 2023 | 12:10 AMKimone Francis/Senior Staff Reporter
Stocks & Securities Limited’s Hope Road headquarters in St Andrew.
Stocks & Securities Limited’s Hope Road headquarters in St Andrew.

Security personnel at KingAlarm responded to three separate triggers at investment firm Stocks & Securities Limited’s (SSL) head office late Wednesday before a breach of the Hope Road, St Andrew building was discovered early on Thursday.

At least five laptop computers, including one belonging to the company’s chief financial officer, were stolen.

A well-placed source at the security company, who asked not to be identified because he was not authorised to speak on the matter, told The Gleaner that teams initially responded to two separate triggers.

Checks of the two-storey building revealed that nothing was amiss, the source said.

A team was again dispatched after the alarm was triggered for a third time shortly after 6 a.m. on Thursday, but the source said that while a team was en route to the location, it received a disarm signal.

The breach of the building was reported shortly after that.

“In each instance, our operatives carried out their responsibilities in keeping with the contract that we have with the client,” the source said, adding that the company was only to be contacted if the KingAlarm team observed a breach.

Further, the source said that during each check, SSL’s on-site security guard – who is not a KingAlarm employee – confirmed with the KingAlarm team that “all was well”.

“It’s very possible that someone could have locked themselves on the inside and had actually broken out,” the source put forward as one theory.

A kitchen window was discovered opened.

The St Andrew Central police are probing the matter. Divisional commander Senior Superintendent Marlon Nesbeth told The Gleaner that the full extent of the robbery is not yet clear.

The firm will remain closed for the rest of the week.

The multibillion-dollar fraud and irregularities uncovered at SSL in January have ballooned past US$30 million, or J$4.7 billion, with more than 200 accounts impacted.

Track and field legend Usain Bolt is among the victims.

The Financial Investigations Division (FID) shared the update in a statement on Wednesday while noting that the investigation, which began in January, is still ongoing.

However, the FID said that despite numerous appeals and direct communication, it has only received 23 official statements from affected individuals and entities.

Former SSL Client Relationship Manager Jean-Ann Panton is facing a 21-count indictment after being charged with forgery, larceny as a servant, and engaging in a transaction involving criminal property.

She is the only person charged in the matter so far.

Yesterday, opposition People’s National Party (PNP) called for a “high-level” probe into the reported break-in.

The opposition party expressed concern and shock at the latest development.

The PNP said the recent development raises critical questions about the integrity of the ongoing investigation, noting that it is deeply troubled by the apparent security breach, which, it said, poses a significant risk of compromising information vital to the probe.

“It is unacceptable that potential evidence, stored within these laptops, might be tampered with or destroyed, hindering the pursuit of justice,” said Opposition Spokesman on Finance Julian Robinson.

He added: “Just yesterday (Wednesday), the FID disclosed that the scale of the fraud under scrutiny was even more extensive than initially believed. Therefore, the revelation of this theft is profoundly unsettling.”

Robinson said that there must be a comprehensive and high-level inquiry into the matter, given the strong indication that these actions are aimed at obstructing justice and obliterating evidence.

He said that the FID must urgently implement robust security measures to safeguard all assets and information related to the SSL investigation.

“We implore the Jamaica Constabulary Force to do more to ensure the preservation of the investigation’s integrity. Taxpayer resources have been extensively invested in untangling the complexities of the SSL situation, and any compromise resulting from negligence or deliberate actions would be an egregious disservice to the public,” said Robinson.

Further, he said that the Opposition wants swift and decisive action to identify those responsible for the theft and to retrieve the stolen laptops promptly.

He said justice must prevail, and it is incumbent upon all relevant authorities to guarantee the sanctity of this investigation.