Friday, 20 January 2023 12:19

Is Jean-Ann Panton the Scape G.O.A.T?...Where are the rammies and mother heffers?

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By Andrew Clunis

Every good drama needs some great conspiracy theories, right?

And if you’ve been following the SSL/Usain Bolt saga on Social Media, you can have your pick of the litter.

Since it’s open season with the police yet to charge Jean-Ann Panton or any other ghost at SSL, why not sweeten the pot a bit?

Is it possible that Jean Ann Panton has been made the Scape-G.O.A.T and she is holding firm to the principle of ‘honour among thieves’?

We’ll get to it shortly!

This latest episode has shown that the Jamaican financial sector is a cesspool and it appears that the Financial Services Commission is the largest load of shite in the system.

The FSC held a press conference on Wednesday, which for all intent and purposes, might as well not have happened. However, it shed light on the leadership of the agency, painting Executive Director Everton McFarlane as a pompous, self-righteous, wrong-and-strong brute.

So disdainful was his performance that it prompted Finance Minister Dr. Nigel Clarke to demand his resignation.

His attitude toward journalists who came prepared for answers was unbecoming of a public servant. He was crude and uncouth throughout the session and his demeanour screamed, “Who are you people, what gives you the right to ask me these questions?”

If that is the attitude of the leadership of the FSC, we need not wonder why the sector is ailing so badly and has been overrun with massive fraud in recent weeks.

McFarlane’s resignation is not enough. The entire Board of Directors and senior management should recuse themselves from the running of the agency while investigations take place. Their only input should be to cooperate fully with the sleuths and tell what they know.

How long has the FSC been giving a pass to derelict financial institutions, and which other organisations have been flagged in past, but not sanctioned?   

A former very senior executive at one of the country’s largest commercial banks told Jamaica Times yesterday that fraud is uncovered almost daily in financial institutions across the country. We suspected that. 

She went on: “We are alarmed at the scale of what has happened at SSL but such activity is a daily occurrence at our deposit taking institutions, albeit in smaller measure. The public is not aware because we always try to settle these matters internally to protect the integrity of the organisation. If the country were to be made aware of the ubiquitous nature of fraud in the system, there would be a total collapse. We have staff who are employed to deal precisely with these situations and we try to identify and address these matters with or without client knowledge to avoid panic.”

This source spent close to 40 years in the banking sector. Her competence to speak on this matter is unquestioned.

She explained that fraudsters mostly target accounts held by the elderly and persons living overseas, who are less likely to keep running tabs on their accounts. “If one has experience in the system, fraud becomes fairly simple. You identify the weaknesses and exploit them. Having the trust of your colleagues helps to make the process seamless. There are lots of fissures in the system that have remained untreated for years. Greed does not take a holiday so while the system remains vulnerable, these incidents will continue to happen.”

The Finance Minister is scheduled to speak in detail on the matter on Monday. He needs to demonstrate that he has fully taken charge of this monumental avalanche, that is shredding Jamaica’s reputation as the largest financial centre in the English-speaking Caribbean. Platitudes and hollow assurances will not work. The entire country and those with business interests in Jamaica should tune in and pay close attention to what he has to say.

It would have been thougjt lessons might have been learnt from the FINSAC earthquake which triggered a powerful commission of enquiry. Assurances were given in its aftermath, yet here we are again!

Between Dr Clarke and Prime Minister Andrew Holness, they must embark on disemboweling the Jamaican financial sector and put it through a period of convalescence. This will not be achieved via a joint select committee in parliament, but by a select group of public and private finance experts, empaneled under the seal of the Governor General and held to highest standard of accountability.

How can we be touting foreign investment if the financial assets of our own hero, Usain Bolt and numerous other Jamaicans cannot be secured at home? Why should any responsible international organization take risks by putting their money into Jamaica.

The Prime Minister should not have to be pressured on this issue. He has a duty to the Jamaican people. Of course he will have to tread carefully between the raindrops, because this is political acid rain, but he needs to show the country that he is one among us, equally perturbed by what is transpiring.

With the history of Finsac, Olint and Cash Plus fresh in the minds of the populace, the Prime Minister should at least formally address the country in a national broadcast forthwith, while taking care not to prejudice the investigation.

But the Prime Minister is not rushed because he has lots of wiggle room; he is hardly facing an opposition in the PNP and the so-called civil society has shown itself to be impotent, with its less-than-belligerent attitude toward national affairs.

There are theories upon theories and a lot of salacious rumour-mongering about the reasons for the Prime Minister’s silence and absence from the raging debate. Some are not worthy of being repeated as they are really far-fetched and covered in political bile.

At the risk of being painted with the same brush, don’t you find the PM’s silence on the matter curiously frightening? Some will say he has no place intervening but if not him or Dr. Clarke, who bears the burden of protecting the country’s financial architecture?

Don’t you find it strange that with all that has been available in the public domain, re the sworn statement given by Jean-Ann Panton to SSL investigators, that nobody has been brought in for questioning, sequestered, arrested or charged? Are the leadership brass of SSL still communicating with each other?

So what of Miss Panton’s statement? Did SSL have any intention of sharing it with the Financial Investigation Division?

If taken to be accurate, her statement shows that she did not swindle Usain Bolt’s nest egg.

So who at SSL did?

Who are the people on whom stop orders have been placed? Yes, there is air of impatience about this but the jitters are spreading fast. This matter has gone well beyond Usain Bolt and his retirement fund. The cancer is affecting institutions and individuals right across the financial spectrum Jamaica’s head has been bowed in the international financial marketplace.

This is no longer seen as run-of-the-mill fraud in a financial institution. It is being referenced alongside ‘chopping’, that inglorious term that blankets our society through our musical glorification of scamming. Nigeria must be taking notes from us now!

So how about this theory. Is it possible that Miss Panton is the rabbit in all of this, sent out there to draw attention, while the mad dogs make a frantic run for it?  

What was she promised by SSL that prompted her to acquiesce, giving such a detailed and self-convicting statement? Is it that the strategy employed by her attorney blew a gasket akin to an overburdened sewerage system? Were they attempting to address the matter clandestinely, to spare the organization, and she would make restitution and walk away with the façade of SSL intact, while they explored ways to replace all the stolen money? Perversion charges there maybe?

Who leaked that document? Isn't that act more reason for depositors to quake, knowing that their private information was so easily made piublic?

Was there another party who had an epiphany of conscience and pulled away from the ranks? Are there persons at the upper echelons of society who might have been close to the action who are being protected, because knowledge of their illicit activities would totally erode confidence in the banking sector?

Perchance, was there anybody on that list that you identified and they've been failing to settle their debts with you? The cat's out the bag now. Class action suit to permanently wreck SSL and its owners I say!

Perhaps we’ll get the answers as the togas come off and rotund figures of the fatted calves are revealed - .Party done!

The country must at all costs avoid a run on the banks. If this were to happen Jamaica would be set back 30 years.

Is it possible that the Prime is quietly navigating the murky waters behind the scenes to try and save the sector?

With questions swirling about the challenges the Integrity Commission is having in releasing his statutory declaration, the undecided Ruel Reid matter, the Petrojam brouhaha and other questionable issues concerning people close to him and the JLP, hmmm…uneasy indeed, lies the head that wears the crown.

The Jamaican people will not tolerate anything that even faintly smells like Finsac. Surely there are possible outcomes in this saga that could bring down the government. And that is the last thing the country needs right now!

The sentiment being expressed widely across the country and on social media is - Dem tief Usain Bolt money; it can’t go suh! The ants nest is being pricked and the people are uneasy.

If Mr Holness and Dr. Clarke want to emerge unscathed from this matter, they must act decisively, now!

No less is required!

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Last modified on Friday, 20 January 2023 13:48