By DÁNICA COTO Associated Press
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — Jamaica’s government has turned to the FBI for help as it investigates a massive fraud case involving a private investment firm where $12.7 million belonging to renowned sprinter Usain Bolt has gone missing. The fraud lasted 13 years and also ensnared elderly clients and government agencies. Authorities don’t yet know how much was stolen.
Attorneys for Bolt, who said the star athlete’s account has dwindled to just $12,000, have given the investment firm until Friday to return the money before going to court.
The government also asked other international partners it did not identify for help in investigating one of the island’s largest fraud cases, Finance Minister Nigel Clarke said Monday.
“The anger and unease we all feel have been magnified by the long duration — 13 years — over which the fraud was allegedly perpetrated, and the fact that the (suspects) seemed to have deliberately and heartlessly targeted elderly persons, as well as our much loved and respected national icon … Usain Bolt,” Clarke said.
The investigation into Kingston-based Stocks and Securities Limited is just starting, so it’s not immediately clear exactly how much money was allegedly stolen or how many people were affected. Clarke said clients were given false statements regarding their balances as part of the alleged fraud.
Government agencies including the National Health Fund, Jamaica’s Agricultural Society and the National Housing Trust also invested millions of dollars in Stocks and Securities Limited, Clarke said.
Jamaica’s Financial Services Commission began investigating after the company alerted authorities this month that a manager had apparently committed fraud.
Since then, the commission’s director has resigned, and Clarke has placed the Bank of Jamaica in charge of regulating 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 has not returned emailed requests from The Associated Press seeking comment.
Clarke said authorities are working to uncover every detail of the alleged fraud.
“They will unearth exactly how funds were allegedly stolen, who benefitted from such theft and who organized and collaborated in this,” he said.
Clarke said the government also will seek forfeiture of any assets that might have been bought with the alleged stolen funds. He added that the government will soon approve stiffer penalties for white-collar crimes.
“If you rob depositors or you defraud investors … and you put our financial system and our way of life at risk, the Jamaican society wants you put away for a long time,” he said.