The Jamaican government has turned to the FBI for help as it investigates a major fraud case involving a private investment firm in which famous sprinter Usain Bolt’s $12.7 million went missing. The fraud spanned 13 years and ensnared both elderly clients and government agencies. Authorities do not yet know how much was stolen.
Bolt’s lawyers, who said the star athlete’s bill had dwindled to just $12,000, gave the investment firm until Friday to return the money before going to court.
The government has also sought help from other international partners it did not identify in an investigation into one of the island’s biggest fraud cases, Finance Minister Nigel Clarke said on Monday.
“The anger and discomfort we all feel is compounded by the length of time – 13 years – over which the fraud was allegedly carried out, and the fact that (the suspects) appear to have deliberately and callously targeted the elderly as well as our much-loved and respected national icon… Usain Bolt.” , Clark said.
The investigation into Kingston-based Stocks and Securities Limited is just beginning, so it was not immediately clear how much money was allegedly stolen or how many people were affected. Clark said customers were made false statements about their condition as part of the alleged scam.
Government agencies, including the National Health Trust, the Agricultural Society of Jamaica and the National Housing Trust, have also invested millions of dollars in Stocks and Securities Limited, Clark said.
Jamaica’s Financial Services Commission launched an investigation after the company alerted authorities this month that a manager had apparently committed fraud.
The director of the commission has since resigned, and Clarke has appointed the Bank of Jamaica to regulate 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 respond to emailed requests from The Associated Press for comment.
Clark said authorities are working to uncover every detail of the alleged fraud.
“They will find out exactly how the funds were allegedly stolen, who benefited from such theft and who organized and collaborated it,” he said.
Clark said the government will also seek the forfeiture of any assets that may have been purchased with the alleged stolen funds. He added that the government will soon approve stricter penalties for criminal acts.
“If you rob depositors or cheat investors … and put our financial system and our way of life at risk, Jamaican society wants you out of the way for a long time,” he said.