Jean-Ann Panton: Criminal Mastermind Or Whistler Blower?

It has been said of Jamaica, That Brer-Anancy, Is the National Folk-Hero, and Brer-Anancy is a Con-Artist, Corruption is (By Extention) part and parcel of the cultural Fabric of the national psyche. 

In this respect, one noted Leader of one of the Country’s two political Parties, once advised his party, that fighting National Elections on An Anti-Corruption Platform was tantamount to mounting a losing election campaign. 

Well, it would appear that times have indeed changed, as recent disclosures about the commission of major fraud, at SSL, a noted Stocks and Securities dealership, that resulted in International Sprint Icon and National Folk Hero, Usain Bolt, being defrauded of over 12-Million US Dollars, has seen Jamaicans at home and abroad united in defense of the legendary track Star, And Vocal in their Support for immediate restitution, and or swift punishment for those involved in what they consider A grave injustice and travesty! 

For many, the travesty is that Bolt, A National treasure, who sprinted his way from rural poverty, into international stardom and wealth, was targetted by those who considered, themselves as the elite; who, were it not for Bolts’ star quality and wealth, would not normally, have time for him. And so, would not necessarily Socialise with him And so this act of betrayal has left many fuming, as they say, it has revealed the transactional nature of their relationship with the sprint Icon, and underlines one of the many reasons, he was targetted. 

To say that Jamaicans are incensed with this act of treachery, would be tantamount to dressing up a pig, lipstick, and all, and calling it a river Mummah. The fact is, the revelation has unleashed many a pent-up national frustration, that was being kept in check, by the fight for survival. But as Bolt is seen as representing the underclass that made good, only to be robbed by the system and those who support the elitist, racially tinged structure, many see it as a body blow to the national solar plexus, making their own dreams of success, nothing now, but a hollow pipe-dream, as the reasoning is, ‘Even when you find ‘get-out’, them still find a way, to still keep you from stepping up’. 

` And just like that, this act of fraud, perpetrated against innumerable investor-hopefuls, stung the national consciousness but it was the trespass committed against Usain Bolt, that re-opened up old wounds of buried prejudices, and lines of demarcation, that were papered-over, to now expose age-old fissures, and has left Jamaicans at home and across the diaspora, boiling, as many from across the diaspora, have also been victimized by many of these banking and quasi banking institutions.

Curiously enough, many see the former SSL employee, accused of being the master fraudster, as a ‘Whistle-Blower” And not the Theif she’s being made out to be by her former bosses, and colleagues at SSL. And investigators. With preliminary investigations done for this article, tending to support the wholescale disenchantment and feeling of let-down, it has led to a major fall-out for the Governing JLP, Andrew Holness-led, administration. 

For many, the narrative that this manager, singlehandedly plotted the multi-million dollar scheme, that has led to the near implosion of the Banking and Securities industry, is not possible. They see Greater collusion with the entity’s big-wigs and even members of the Superstars’ team. 

What is, even more, Distressing, Is the fact that the narrative by those who once headed SSL, now distancing themselves from the believed institutional knowledge, that Bolt or the Entities he controlled, were on SSL Company’s Clients list, is thought literally unbelievable, and nigh to impossible. And A Challenge To The smarts of the well-thinking. 

According to sources close to the investigation, the Fraud came to light because Jean-Ann Panton, (The Only Accused So Far), Approached Bolt’s management team seeking to borrow over a hundred thousand US Dollars, supposedly to pay back sums she reportedly acknowledged embezzling from SSL.

When questioned by a member of Bolt’s Management team, about inaccuracies in her story, and when asked specifically if Bolt’s account had been violated, she reportedly shamefully confided that was indeed the case. And As the story goes, this was how the Massive Fraud, was uncovered. 

As was to be expected, there are now several versions of how the massive fraud was uncovered, with some at SSL, seeking to take credit for unmasking what they cast as one ‘Former Employee’ going rouge and defrauding their clients, including Bolt. The problem here is, in this the age of social media, and outside of the social media platforms where many have traditional access to information, that they now use Social media Platforms to propagate, The SSL management narrative has been thoroughly debunked. 

As, according to other credible sources, reports are now emerging that this was not the First time that SSL was accused of fraud by its customers. As there are credible claims that at least one celebrated, well-known, liked and well-respected businessman and his allied companies, lost close to Seven-million US Dollars, A Few years ago, due to fraud, and this was swept under the carpet by the Powers that be, and many in the business community, who did not want a run on the Institution. As that would have increased their financial exposure. And Word is, that was not the only case of fraud, resulting in missing clients’ funds, in recent years, but all these reports were

swept under the carpet, in order to not rock the boat as it was alleged that many of those early clients who lost money, and many of those now reporting losses, in this recent case of fraud, had/have such incestuous business linkages, they were essentially part and parcel of a criminal enterprise that was part Ponzi scheme, and part Tax-haven used to conceal some earnings, inflate the prices of stocks and bonds, to increase the value of their supposed wealth. And became a tool, used to acquire businesses and or float IPOs. 

For many observers and industry insiders, the true extent of the fraud at SSL, will never be truly known, as they say, many who suffered losses, cannot and will not report their losses, for fear of incurring tax-evasion charges from other jurisdictions. 

This for many, begs the question, And some say this is really the Multi-Million Dollar Question: how did Usain Bolt end up in bed with this band of pirates? To date, its a question not even Bolt himself has been able to answer, but many of SSL’s former and current clients are happy that Bolt was entrapped, as they see his losses being the only ray of hope, for them being able to recoup their losses or some of their losses, as they are banking on Bolt’s status as an international celebrity, to speed up the investigations and identify perpetrators and the missing funds, or the assets, those funds were used to secure…

While local Financial pundits have little confidence in any investigation recouping the stolen funds and or identifying the real culprits and or masterminds, many were buoyed by early reports suggesting that invitations were issued by the local Police to the FBI, And some say (INTERPOL), to help with the investigations and recovery processes. But with pronouncements from the Finance Minister and The Police seeming to cast doubts on the earlier pronouncements, despair is setting in as many fear their remaining days will be lived out in poverty if there’s no timely recovery of the missing funds. 

As the process moves forward, however, some credit the Minister of Finance for the steps he took, to stave off a full-fledged meltdown of the Financial Services sector, Whilst many say he did not go far enough but are still hopeful the steps taken so far, will result in the full restoration of confidence, in the sector. 

Many still fear, that the SSL debacle, is not the last we have heard of massive fraud perpetrated against the unsuspecting public, as they cite past examples of massive multi-billion dollar fraud allegedly committed by Bankers, Lawyers, and Trustees, with nary a soul held accountable for those financial crimes. And Still no full accounting from the Ponzi Schemes of Cash-Plus and Olint, which saw billions disappearing from the official economy never to be accounted for again…A Point many use in arguing that given SSL foundation in the ashes of the failed Eagle Group, should never have been given

the heads-up for incorporation and should have been declared Dead-On-Arrival the minute that thought became an Idea and was brought to the powers-that-be, for permission to launch. As they contend, it was born out of a prior Meltdown in the Sector, A Meltdown that was never properly aired or explained but resulted in one of the principles of SSL, instead of being investigated and or questioned, to shed light on his role in the 80s scandal, re-emerged from that conundrum, to head SSL, only to be caught up in the current financial imbroglio which many are saying is the Greatest case of post-slavery personal fraud, ever committed in the history of Jamaica. And they contend, it was not a 13-year-long history, but a four-decade-long financial Cancer that was allowed to fester and metastasize became gangrenous, and almost took down the Country’s Financial Sector. Leaving Usain Bolt and a few others, holding the Empty bag.

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