JAMAICAN track and field icon Usain Bolt pumped US$6.5 million into the investment firm Stocks and Securities Limited (SSL) between 2012 and 2017 but almost as soon as the money was deposited it was moved out without his knowledge.
A Jamaica Observer probe has uncovered that Bolt invested US$6.2 million in SSL in 2012 through a limited liability company named Welljen, which is believed to be an amalgamation of the first names of his parents Wellesly and Jennifer Bolt.
Another US$900,000 was added to Bolt’s account by 2017. But US$5.8 million was withdrawn from his account starting in 2012 through cheques and cash.
In addition, US$90,000, which was lodged in the account between 2019 and 2022, was quickly withdrawn.
“The money withdrawn would have included interest and dividend earned in addition to the nominal amount invested,” said an Observer source on Sunday.
The source provided the Observer with the portfolio holdings and liabilities statement, bearing SSL’s logo, allegedly sent to the Bolt team in September 2022, which showed fixed income of US$3,714.58 million, equities of US$7,415.06 million, and cash of US$918,000.01, and amounted to US$12,047.65 million in the company.
Lawyers representing Bolt had sent a letter to SSL demanding that US$12,758,181.74 — the reported balance in his account at October 31, 2022 — be repaid by January 27.
The attorneys also claimed that only US$12,000 remained in the account.
When the ultimatum expired last Friday, one of Bolt’s attorneys, Linton Gordon, told the Observer that they were in talks with the Financial Services Commission (FSC), which has taken control of SSL, and it would be inappropriate to make any further comments at the time.
In the meantime, local investigators have been joined by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) as the probe continues into what is believed to be the biggest fraud at a registered Jamaican financial institution.
The FBI late last week responded to questions from the Observer confirming that it has joined the investigation, but there was not much more in its terse response.
Among the issues which the investigators are probing are 10 transactions between July 2021 and May 2022 in which millions of dollars were taken from Bolt’s account and transferred to a bearer to purportedly buy blue-chip stocks in American firms.
E-mail authorising the purchase of the stocks were purportedly sent by a previous member of Bolt’s management team to the former SSL employee at the centre of the investigation, but Observer sources say the e-mail address from which the authorisations were sent was fabricated. Additionally, the former management team member has strongly denied authorising the movement of funds from the sprint legend’s account.
Bolt is one of at least 40 SSL clients whose investments were totally or almost wiped out in the fraud estimated to be more than $3 billion so far.
The issue, which has attracted international attention primarily due to the fact that Bolt is a victim, has resulted in the FSC sending a temporary manager into the company for oversight of its operations.
Additionally, a raft of reforms for the financial sector were announced last week by Finance Minister Dr Nigel Clarke, who also cashiered the FSC’s executive director and replaced him with the Temporary Manager Kerron Burrell.
Clarke also replaced four members of the FSC board with senior Bank of Jamaica (BOJ) executives — Governor Richard Byles, who is now chairman; Wayne Robinson; Jide Lewis; and George Roper.
Additionally, Clarke told the country that in addition to the FBI, forensic auditors from overseas will assist local law enforcement agencies with probing the fraud.
Late last Wednesday Clarke disclosed that the FSC was successful in obtaining a court order blocking the directors of SSL from winding up the company and liquidating assets.
According to Clarke, the members of SSL had applied to the Companies Office of Jamaica for a members’ voluntary winding up of the firm on January 16, 2023.
The court order bars the trustee and directors of SSL from disposing of or dealing with assets and liabilities in SSL’s name; withdrawing, transferring, or otherwise dissipating any funds from accounts in its name wherever held; winding up or dissolving the company; or reorganising the company or its operations, whether in document form or organisation of its members, assets, and liabilities.