Jamaica under scrutiny for fraud scandal that hit Usain Bolt

Jan 20, 2023, 10:31 AM | Updated: 10:51 am
FILE - Usain Bolt, a retired Jamaican sprinter, speaks during an interview in Tokyo, Dec. 1, 2022. ...

FILE - Usain Bolt, a retired Jamaican sprinter, speaks during an interview in Tokyo, Dec. 1, 2022. Attorneys for Bolt, one of the world’s greatest sprinters, said more than $12.7 million is missing from his account with a private investment firm in Jamaica that authorities are investigating. Attorney Linton P. Gordon on Jan. 18, 2023 provided the A.P. with a copy of a letter sent to Stocks & Securities Limited demanding that the money be returned or further action will be taken. (AP Photo/Hiro Komae, File)

(AP Photo/Hiro Komae, File)

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — An investigation into a private investment firm in Jamaica where $12.7 million belonging to sprinter Usain Bolt is missing has sparked criticism over the government’s handling of the case, with one top official forced to resign amid one of the largest fraud scandals to hit the Caribbean island.

Everton McFarlane, who until recently was executive director of Jamaica’s Financial Services Commission, went on leave Friday and will step down Jan. 31, officials said.

A top official with Bank of Jamaica will take his place as the investigation continues into Stocks and Securities Limited, a firm based in the capital of Kingston.

“There will be full transparency,” Finance Minister Nigel Clarke said late Thursday, adding that he was disgusted by what the investigation into the alleged fraud has revealed so far.

“No stone will be left unturned in unearthing exactly how funds were allegedly stolen, who benefited from such theft and who organized and collaborated in this,” he said.

Authorities have not said exactly how much money overall is missing.

The investigation began after Stocks and Securities Limited sent authorities a letter Jan. 10 alerting them that a manager had apparently committed fraud. Days later, lawyers for Bolt said the money in his account had dwindled from nearly $12.8 million to $12,000.

Clarke said a preliminary investigation found that a number of elderly clients also have been defrauded. He said that authorities are trying to determine whether any items have been bought with proceeds of the alleged fraud and that the government will seek full forfeiture of them.

“We empathize with all investors who have been impacted by this,” he said.

Jamaica’s Financial Services Commission regulates financial companies, including Stocks and Securities Limited, but many people are questioning why the alleged fraud wasn’t caught earlier.

When a local journalist asked McFarlane at a recent news conference whether the agency he led lacked oversight, he declined to answer and said, “I’ll take another question.”

Earlier this week, McFarlane said the agency took immediate action as soon as it was alerted about the alleged fraud. On Jan. 12, the commission banned the company from conducting any transactions without its approval, and it has since appointed a temporary manager to oversee the company’s daily operations.

Stocks and Securities Limited has not responded to messages asking for comment. Earlier this week, it posted a statement on its website saying that clients should direct all urgent queries to the Financial Services Commission.

Bolt’s attorneys have said they will take civil and criminal action if his money is not returned by the end of next week. They did not immediately return a message for comment Friday.

Bolt, who holds the world records for the 100 meters, 200 meters and 4×100 meters, retired in 2017.

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Jamaica under scrutiny for fraud scandal that hit Usain Bolt