The Stocks and Securities Limited (SSL) fraud saga has Jamaicans hooked to their screens as the scandal continues to unfold. With each revelation, one can't help but wonder what next.
READ: SSL says employee sought help from Usain Bolt's team to replenish depleted accounts
It's not the first financial scandal to have rocked the nation. OBSERVER ONLINE reflects on some of the island’s infamous fraud cases over the years.
Cash Plus Limited
Cash Plus Limited which began operating in Jamaica in 2002 was led by Carlos Hill and it drew the attention of thousands of investors, with the promise of a 120 per cent return on investments. But by 2007 the Financial Services Commission (FSC) published a statement that Hill had until December to disclose details about his assets. By this time, investors had started to realise that time had passed for them to receive certain returns on money invested.
Hill was arrested in 2008, however it was not until 2009 that he was formally charged with fraudulently inducing people to invest. Hill and his brother Bertram were also suspected of tucking away US$25 million in a Swiss bank in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates.
After eight years of court delays and bail extensions, prosecutors revealed in November 2016 that a number of witnesses in the fraud case against Hill could not be located and the Cash Plus boss was freed of all charges due to a lack of evidence.
Based on reports, investors with Cash Plus never received payment on monies lost in the multi-billion dollar investment scheme.
Olint Investment Scheme
The Olint Investment Scheme was originally started by David Smith in Jamaica before being closed down by the Financial Services Commission (FSC) in March 2006. He reportedly launched operations in the Turks and Caicos Islands and the United States shortly afterwards.
The investment scheme was investigated and was found to be —and admitted by Smith— a ponzi scheme, which reportedly funded his lavish lifestyle. It is reported that Olint’s approximate 6,000 investors across the United States and the Caribbean were defrauded of more than US$220 million.
It was also alleged that Jamaica’s two major political parties also benefitted from Olint’s contributions.
On August 11, 2011, Smith was sentenced to 30 years in prison by the United States District Court in Orlando, Florida after he pleaded guilty to 18 counts of money laundering, four counts of wire fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering.
However, he was sent to the Turks and Caicos Islands, where he was previously sentenced to six years after submitting a guilty plea for charges of fraud and conspiracy. The 30-year sentence ran concurrently with the prison time in the Turks and Caicos Islands, which means Smith would spend 24 years in a US prison.
World Wise Partners
World Wise Partners, an unregulated investment scheme, emerged in 2007 on the heels of Cash Plus and Olint.
But with a promise of a 200 per cent yearly return on investments many people joined with the investment group and soon lost more than $200 million, when the FSC served World Wise with a cease-and-desist order.
However, before the FSC could serve the order, Noel Strachan, the man behind World Wise, and his family had migrated to the United States.
While the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Paula Llewellyn said that Strachan and his wife Judy should face fraud charges, and the Jamaica police sought the help of their international partners to locate the operators of World Wise, it is unclear if Strachan was ever officially charged.
Years later, Strachan, in an interview denied that World Wise Partners was a ponzi scheme and stated that at least 90 per cent of those who invested in the failed scheme were repaid. However, these reports could not be corroborated. Strachan also denied using money invested at World Wise to fund a lavish lifestyle in the United States, which reportedly included a private jet.
In 2018 a number of Jamaicans joined Loom as it promised up to 300 per cent earnings on investments. The operators of Loom used mainly social media and WhatsApp to attract customers in order to keep the Loom wheel moving.
Loom invited people to invest a minimum of $5,000, and they had to get two other people to join. The operators of the Loom then promised that after a week investors would see returns of up to $20,000.
The FSC issued warnings about Loom, alerting Jamaicans to avoid get-rich-quick schemes, and just a month later, the Loom slowed for some, and stopped completely for others who lost thousands of dollars.
Many scrambled to recoup losses, but the majority of the investors were left with unanswered messages when they tried to contact the Loom operators.
Up to this point it is unclear if anyone was prosecuted for this scheme.
Former NCB manager Andrea Gordon
A former senior manager at National Commercial Bank, Andrea Gordon pleaded guilty to stealing approximately $34 million from the financial institution.
It is reported that her criminal activities were uncovered in 2020 after the bank received information that she was engaged in fraudulent activities. An investigation was launched and it was discovered that Gordon transferred money from the bank’s internal accounts to her personal accounts, as well as to her family and accounts belonging to customers.
Investigations also revealed that Gordon used the money to fund her lifestyle and do construction work on her house, but had told investigators that she took the money to assist a relative who had cancer and that she was facing financial difficulties after she started building her house in 2017.
According to the allegations before the court, investigations revealed that Gordon posted approximately 282 suspicious transactions totalling $111,262,660.21. The transactions were done between February 2017 and May 2020. She was, however, indicted for only $34 million.
Gordon was sentenced to seven years and six months in prison for fraud.
Partner plans are popular among Jamaicans, many of whom have made a decent life for themselves and their families using this informal way of saving. Quite often, however, the plans collapse due to the dishonesty of a member resulting in huge sums of money being lost.
In a partner plan, each member contributes an agreed sum of money periodically and the accumulated cash is given to one member as a “draw”. Each member is given their turn at collecting a draw.
However, there have been a number of reports of members taking all the deposited cash and cutting contact with the depositors in the plan, or lending the money to others outside of the partner plan who do not repay it.
Many of these cases have ended up before the courts.
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