The Jamaican government has turned to the FBI for help as it investigates a massive fraud case involving a private investment firm where $12.7 million belonged to a renowned sprinter Usain Bolt has disappeared. The fraud lasted 13 years and also ensnared elderly customers and government agencies. Authorities do not yet know how much was stolen.
Bolt’s attorneys, who said the star athlete’s account had fallen to just $12,000, gave the investment firm until Friday to return the money before going to court.
The government has also asked other international partners it has not identified to help investigate one of the island’s biggest fraud cases, Finance Minister Nigel Clarke said on Monday.
“The anger and unease we all feel was amplified by the long span – 13 years – over which the fraud was allegedly perpetrated, and the fact that the (suspects) appeared to have deliberately and heartlessly targeted elderly people, as well as our beloved and respected national icon… Usain Bolt,” Clarke said.
The investigation into Kingston-based Stocks and Securities Limited is just beginning, so it’s not immediately clear exactly how much money was allegedly stolen or how many people were affected. Clarke said customers received false statements about their balances as part of the alleged fraud.
Government agencies including the National Health Fund, Jamaica’s Agricultural Society and the National Housing Trust have also invested millions of dollars in Stocks and Securities Limited, Clarke said.
The Jamaica Financial Services Commission has opened an investigation after the company alerted authorities this month that an official had apparently committed fraud.
The commission’s director has since resigned and Clarke has given the Bank of Jamaica responsibility for regulating the island’s financial system.
“There is no need to panic,” he said. “Despite this most unfortunate development, Jamaica’s financial sector remains strong.”
The company did not return Associated Press email requests seeking comment.
Clarke said authorities are working to uncover full details of the alleged fraud.
“They will find out exactly how the funds were allegedly stolen, who profited from this theft and who organized and collaborated in this,” he said.
Clarke said the government will also seek forfeiture of any assets that may have been purchased with the allegedly stolen funds. He added that the government will soon approve tougher sentences for white-collar crimes.
“If you are robbing depositors or defrauding investors…and putting our financial system and our way of life at risk, Jamaican society wants you out for a long time,” he said. he declares.