News of the demise of Ponzi schemes abound worldwide. We have heard of the arrests of Carlos Hill of Cash Plus Ltd in Jamaica, Olint’s David Smith in Turks and Caicos Islands and according to news reports, Olint is also under investigation by agencies in Jamaica and the USA. One wonders if the owner will ever be charged under this JLP government.

Former Wall Street honcho, Bernard Madoff, was arrested on a multi-billion dollar fraud indictment in New York, and now Billionaire businessman and West Indies cricket sponsor Sir Robert Allen Stanford has had arrest warrants issued for him in Dallas, Texas on similar charges. There is information suggesting that Stanford cannot be found by the FBI, he has literally disappeared.

Both men were financial contributors to America’s political parties, Republicans and Democrats, whose representatives are now lining up to donate the contributions received from Stanford to charities. Is any local politician who received funding from Olint listening? Give back the money now.

With one exception, the accused men are alleged to have withdrawn exorbitant sums of money from their schemes before they went belly up. It is alleged that Smith transferred US $60 million to two Florida based companies in 2007, Madoff was caught with signed cheques valued in excess of US$170 million on the day of his arrest in December 2008, then his wife Ruth withdrew US$5.5 million on November 25, 2008 and US$10 million on December 10, 2007, from the family owned Boston based bank.

According to the Washington Post newspaper, the US Securities Exchange Commission moved against Stanford after he and his associates attempted to liquidate some of its holdings and withdrew over US$173 million from the Antigua based Stanford International Bank. The rats certainly knew when to abandon their listing ships.

Inferred from the charges against all these men are allegations that they have duped their investors with promises of impossible returns on their investments. The multiplicity of victims worldwide is quite astounding and begs the question, why did most of the central fiduciary and regulatory institutions in the Caribbean and the USA wait so late to act?

Dr. Omar Davies tried, as Finance Minister; under the previous PNP administration; in 2006 he warned participants about the solvency of Cash Plus, Olint and other local alternative investment schemes, he was pilloried and vilified by some in his government and many in the current JLP administration.

The Financial Services Commission raided the offices of Cash Plus and Olint, they and the PNP government were literally tarred and feathered by their critics for attempting to mash up poor people business. It got so absurd; in the aftermath of the PNP’s September 2007 General Election loss; Dr. Davies was blamed for the defeat because he dared to initiate action against Olint and other unregulated alternative schemes. Interestingly, the author of that particular article; an attorney at law; is one of those who cannot access their Olint invested funds.

According to copies of emails that I have received, numerous members of the current government solicited funds from Olint and included among the alleged email correspondents with and to David Smith are the prime minister, the minister of finance, a deputy leader, members of the JLP’s treasury team, a prominent junior minister and others high up in the JLP hierarchy.

In the Rev. Garnett Roper’s article of February 15, 2009 Sunday Herald, he stated Daryl Vaz, Minister without Portfolio in the Office of the Prime Minister, has acknowledged in the media as genuine his emails to David Smith the principal owner of Olint. Now we know why the big hullabaloo by the JLP when Omar and the FSC acted in late 2006 /early 2007.

According to the emails, Olint was solicited to fund the unveiling of the JLP’s sixty candidates at a mass meeting/rally in Mandeville in 2006. Further, sums were solicited to fortify the campaigns of four current JLP MPs. Could they have lost without the alleged contribution from Olint? It’s hard to tell without getting a look at the poll data before the infusion of the cash. But had they lost, the parliamentary balance would have been different.

In January 2008 I wrote an article on the alternative schemes, back then I asked the following questions; how many of these Investments Schemes contributed to the JLP’s coffers prior to the September 3, 2007 election and how much did they contribute? What promises were made? Did a senior high ranking minister of government strenuously chastise a senior officer of the Financial Services Commission for acting too hastily in seeking the ‘cease and desist’ order against certain investment schemes? Now I ask, was that lambasting quid pro quo by some in government?

Speaking of which, who were the members of government present at the pre-2007 Christmas Olint/investor meeting in the Bahamas? How many from within the PNP were present? Who from the so called ‘pillars of the society’ was present? It is alleged that the JLP had over US$5 million invested in Olint, if so did they withdraw their money and if they did, when?

The online news magazine Abeng News, in a February 17, 2009 article indicates that bloggers have suggested that the PNP government waited until party members withdrew their money from Olint before they clamped down. There is no evidence to support the allegation but that is a serious charge and if true, the opposition PNP needs to come to the fore and provide information on those who facilitated predetermined breaches of our banking laws.

Last year a Don Anderson poll found that many Jamaicans were in favor of the illicit schemes and maybe that’s what is contributing to the catatonic state of the populace in the face of such massive fraud. Everyone knows someone or of somebody who lost their savings courtesy of the infernal pyramid schemes a la alternative schemes yet there is no visceral scream or righteous indignation only a sense of resignation.

That’s so unlike the reactions when the Montego Bay based Esmie Jones Partner Plan collapsed earlier this decade. Jones and her coconspirators/employees had to flee; some sought refuge at police stations, in fact, one alleged operative was murdered. Now there’s not even a murmur and one wonders why. Could it be that these people are resigned to their losses or are they living in coo-coo land, hoping against hope that they will recover even a smidgen of their investments?

Maybe the anger of those who have lost stupendous amounts of money is simmering below the surface and will ultimately erupt like a volcano. Were that to happen, we could well see the streets of Jamaica awash with the blood of venal men who used peoples hard earned money to propel themselves into power by collaborating with Olint wittingly or unwittingly to defraud. Are we as a nation prepared for such mayhem?

Then again, not enough poor people or the so called ‘ole niggah’ lost money in those alternative financial clubs. That might explain the silence. Those who lost, some even poorer than yuh and mi, have adopted too much proud and uppity uptown airs, shrouded in the veneer of decency, dem too genteel to be caught in any public display of emotions much less open anger.

I suspect that those out of the loop weren’t invited to the Bahamas. Yet these are people who ought to have known better. However, they invested in the alternative schemes. I remember a young lady whom I met at a conference in early 2007; she worked in the then Ministry of Mining, Industry and Technology. Her remit? Encourage the formulation of small business incubators.

Over coffee, prior to the conference, a group of us including the young lady was discussing the alternative investment schemes and in particular Cash Plus which had begun to generate scrutiny from the regulatory agencies in Jamaica. The young lady was adamant that while the schemes were not safe, clubs like Olint were, further intoning that she had invested a substantial sum in Olint. Let’s hope that she too didn’t lose her shirt.

The majority of those who lost are young professionals, they will have to bite the proverbial bullet and wheel and come again. Their money is gone; it was supposedly used to finance the JLP’s election campaign, nights of gambling in Acapulco and other Caribbean gambling havens, ostentatious lifestyles, private jets and helicopters which were at the beck and call of JLP politicians and operatives.

After the pious grandstanding and moral crusade for transparency over the Trafigura contribution to the PNP, it would be prudent of the JLP to do the honorable thing and give back the money. Every red cent!!

One of the most disturbing aspects of the financial debacle surrounding Stanford is the potential financial losses by members of the victorious Stanford Twenty/20 cricket team. It is alleged that some were encouraged to invest their winnings in the questionable Stanford Certificate of Deposits, CDs.

These are players from poor backgrounds with little academic skills and no financial future after their playing days are over. It would be a pity if their financial security disappears like Stanford. I bet that more Jamaicans will empathize with them for their losses, if any, than with the young professionals who invested in Olint.

Anthony Barrett,

Categories: Opinion

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[…] Government, Politics and Development, West Indies News Quote from: ABENG NEWS – February 27, 2009: How Many Parliamentary Seats did Olint Buy? Former Wall Street honcho, Bernard Madoff, was arrested on a multi-billion dollar fraud indictment […]

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