Eight-Time Olympian Dr. Usain Bolt defrauded over $12 million US dollars by Stock and Securities Limited
Jamaica, famous for reggae music, ackee and salt fish, and gorgeous beaches, has also been mired with bad press of late, from gang-related violent crimes like robbery and murder and the wide and too easy accessibility of guns. The Government of Canada website now lists Jamaica as a place where Canadian travellers should “exercise a high degree of caution”. The turmoil led prime minister Andrew Holness to declare a widespread state of emergency in nine of Jamaica’s fourteen parishes in December 2022. So, what most of the hard working, law abiding, and generous Jamaicans really did not need right now was another scandal. However, that’s exactly what they got! In autumn 2022, details began to emerge of a seismic fraud at the Jamaican financial services company Stock and Securities Limited (SSL) with whom the international superstar and track and field legend, Dr. Usain Bolt, had invested a sizeable chunk of his money. Bolt was one of some forty clients whose accounts were fleeced, allegedly by senior employee Jean-Ann Panton who has now confessed to stealing her clients’ funds over several years. That the fraud transpired at all is disheartening, but its scale is simply shocking.
While as of October 31st, 2022 Bolt’s lawyers claim that his account with SSL had a balance of $12,758,181.74 US dollars, post-Panton it only has $12,047.65 US dollars! Come again? What Panton allegedly stole was the equivalent of millions of US dollars or billions of Jamaican ones, and not just from Bolt. The track legend was merely the highest profile client of the wealth advisor’s alleged victims. While the management of SSL claims no knowledge of the fraud, clearly if one employee was able to access and withdraw funds from so many client accounts without their knowledge and consent, basic financial industry protocols and oversight were obviously not in place at the company. To point out the obvious, for a person with the international reach, profile, and connections of Usain Bolt to invest so much of his hard-earned money in Jamaica was an act of patriotism and loyalty. He clearly had the option and the team to take his money elsewhere to nations with far more stellar reputations for financial protections and returns like Curaçao, the Cayman Islands, Cyprus, Luxembourg, and Jersey. But unlike many wealthy Jamaicans whose rhetoric does not match their actions, Bolt put much of his money where his heart is. But how could he have fathomed that Jamaica’s prime minister’s office, finance minister, financial secretary, financial services, and the Bank of Jamaica would all fail him and others so miserably?
Now SSL has appointed an independent trustee, a move that many feel is a step towards bankruptcy and legal protection. Meanwhile, Bolt’s legal team has indicated that anything short of the return of all his money will result in both criminal and civil prosecutions. Bolt, who recently admitted that his split from his long-time former business manager was not amicable, also commented on the stressful nature of the situation and wanting to leave the matter in the hands of his lawyers. But being the class act that he is, Bolt also had a message for Jamaicans: “Jamaica is my country and it will never change and I will always love my country and always do everything in my power to uplift this country no matter what’s going on.”