The news of what has been reported to be a $3-billion fraud case at Stocks and Securities Limited (SSL), an investment company which is regulated by the Financial Services Commission (FSC), is a very hard one to grasp.
How could this happen?
The FSC is the regulatory body guided by statutes and laws to protect investors from securities fraud and other abuses. Insurance, investment, and pension entities fall under its jurisdiction. However, the FSC clearly lacked vigilance and its integrity is at stake as it failed to carry out its mission, causing undue stress, losses, and panic among clients of SSL.
I believe the FSC is at the centre of the problem as $3-billion didn't go missing overnight without the company and its regulators knowing, and one person alone cannot be involved. I believe this is a massive, complex fraud scheme involving some high-profile players.
Fraud and corruption have taken over Jamaica, from Government to banks and financial services, even schools are reporting multimillion-dollar fraud. Why are financial crimes so prevalent? Many of these crimes involve young professionals who are living it up in the fast lane at other people's expense.
The crime at SSL felt as gruesome as a murder. Many Jamaicans are confused and scared as this could've happened to anyone. But the fact that it happened to one of our most patriotic and iconic citizens, Usain Bolt, is beyond belief. Bolt chose to live and remain in Jamaica, where he invested large sums of his earnings.
As news of the fraud circulated around the globe, it sent ripples of shame through many Jamaicans at home and across the Diaspora. The Government should be embarrassed.
It has been reported that 40 clients were affected by the fraud at SSL. How could anyone defraud clients of so much money without management and regulators knowing or suspecting? Is there any connection between SSL and the FSC? Where were the controls and audit procedures?
According to The Gleaner, the FSC staff flagged SSL as a "problem institution" that operated a "culture of non-compliance and mismanagement of client funds" for years. Why wasn't the company's licence suspended to protect clients' best interests and force full compliance or shutdown?
For a small country, there is too much corruption and scamming in Jamaica. We have public officials awaiting trial for corruption for years and we are aware that the Integrity Commission cannot certify filings from some politicians, which is mandatory. Trust and confidence are vital components to sustain any economy, without that we have nothing.
Government must have clear policies to combat crime and corruption. Imagine having to worry about gunmen roaming the streets, and now we have financial criminals and slick scammers hovering all around. This is of national interest.