Olympic legend Usain Bolt has lost over $12.7 million from his bank account with the Jamaican private investment firm Stocks and Securities Limited (SSL), according to his lawyers. The FBI is officially involved in the investigation.
SSL is currently under surveillance, as the eight-time Olympic gold medalists is one of over 30 alleged victims affected. The sprinter, who was left with $12,000, opened the account in 2012 and has not withdrawn or transferred any money since. The account was intended to serve as a pension for the athlete and his parents, Bolt's attorney. Linton Gordon, told Reuters.
In a letter written to SSL on Jan. 16, Gordon threatened legal action if his client's money was not restored within 10 days. According to a report by Loop Jamaica news, the company's total alleged fraud is estimated at $3 billion, and SSL has reported that it only has $1 million in insurance for the investments it managed.
As of Jan. 17, Jamaica's Financial Services Commission (FSC) announced they were assuming temporary management of SSL and appointed Kenneth Tomlinson of Business Recovery Services Limited as the temporary manager.
"Like all Jamaicans, I am in shock, and feel a profound level of anger and disgust, at the alarming and evil fraud that has allegedly been committed at Stocks and Securities Limited, which is a source of public discussion and anxiety at this time" Jamaica's Finance Minister Dr. Nigel Clarke said on Jan. 18.
A suspect has already confessed to fraud and even given authorities a list of victims, but the story gets complicated as Bolt's name was not mentioned. According to a former SSL CEO, the company wasn't even aware he was a client.
Here are the latest updates on the entire situation:
Former SSL employee confesses to crime
On Jan. 10, SSL reported the multimillion dollar fraud scheme to the FSC. That report was filed after Jean-Ann Panton, an SSL Client relationship manager, gave a written statement dated Jan. 7 in which she confessed to the crime.
Authorities searched two homes owned by Panton and seized documents and electronic devices.
Happening now:— Giovanni R. Dennis (@GiovanniRDennis) January 20, 2023
Police swoop down on property in Millsborough, St Andrew.
They are searching the home Jean Ann Panton, the former Client Services Manager at Stocks and Securities Limited. She's said to have defrauded nearly 40 clients.
#SSL #FSC pic.twitter.com/lGwMM4gMWA
The financial investigation division is currently making arrangements to lay chargers against her. Panton had been with SSL for 25 years. In her statement, Panton said this all started around 2010, when her father was diagnosed with cancer and she was primarily responsible for his care and finances.
"He had to go overseas for treatment and he was not employed at the time. It was at this point I thought of borrowing from client accounts to cover my father's expenses," Panton wrote. "I had no idea how I would pay it back but that was my solution at the time. Approximately three years after, he passed away and I also had to assist with the funeral expenses. I also borrowed from the client accounts to cover the funeral expenses."
Later on, Panton wrote that her brother attempted to kill her mother and was committed to a home, which led to more expenses she had to cover.
"My ﬁnancial burden increased during the Covid-19 pandemic and income from SSL decreased," Panton wrote. "I was unable to repay the funds and continued to take funds for various purposes."
Panton, who is yet to be charged in relation to the fraud but is set to be questioned by authorities, also wrote a list of clients she took money from. Bolt's name wasn't listed.
SSL claims it was unaware Bolt was a client
According to a report by Loop Jamaican News, Zachary Harding -- who was CEO of SSL between Sept. 2019 and June 2022 -- said he was not aware that Bolt, or any company affiliated with the Olympic legend, was a client of the entity and that he "only learnt of Bolt being a client of SSL when the news broke in the media."
"At no time at all did his (Bolt) or any company he may have been affiliated with ever come up as being a client of SSL while I was there," Harding said. " ... It was also recently disclosed from a reliable source that Bolt's team only dealt with one person at SSL and that was Jean Ann Panton."
The complex situation and unanswered questions have led to a lot of commotion. Bolt seemed to indirectly respond to this through a social media post .
"The real ones see through all the PR distractions," Bolt posted on Instagram. "#Focus."
Jamaica's financial sector receives criticism
The fraud scandal doesn't just hurt Bolt and other investors: it also hurts the trust people have in Jamaican financial institutions. Clarke said there is "no need to panic" because he believes that despite this scandal, "Jamaica's financial sector remains strong."
However, the FSC is facing significant criticism over its regulatory oversight of companies in the financial services sector, which may have enabled the alleged SSL scheme. Amid the chaos, FSC executive director Everton McFarlane submitted his resignation on Jan. 19.
"I am certainly disgusted at what has been revealed thus far in terms of the fraud at SSL and I have given a commitment that the government will do everything in our power to ensure that the strength and credibility of Jamaica's financial sector remains intact," Clarke said on the same day he accepted McFarlane's resignation.
Bolt fires business manager
Usain Bolt told reporters Friday that he has fired his business manager over the scandal, adding that it was not an amicable split. According to a report by the Associated Press, Bolt let on how he has been personally hurt by the massive financial loss he has incurred.
"I'm not broke, but it's definitely put a damper on me," Bolt said. "It was for my future. Everybody knows I have three kids. I'm still looking out for my parents, and I still want to live very well."
Bolt referred to the scandal as a "sad situation," referring specifically to the elderly customers who have been affected by the fraud. Bolt let on that he was as confused as the public, but maintained that his focus would remain on uplifting his country despite the turmoil being experienced in Jamaica's financial system.
"No matter what's going on right now, Jamaica is my country," he said. "That will never change."