Cash Plus a tale of personal suffering, says Munroe
The recent acquittal of Carlos Hill, founder of defunct Ponzi scheme Cash Plus, was ripe on the tongues of many who turned out on Monday evening for a forum put on by the Caribbean Policy Research Institute (CAPRI) aimed at countering corruption said to be rife in Jamaica.
Repeatedly, the forum was interrupted by laughter and sympathetic hisses as burnt investors bemoaned their losses while moderator, attorney Emily Shields, tried to hold on to order.
"This is not the forum. I'm sorry, but this is not the forum for that, ma'am," interjected Shields as one middle-age Cash Plus investor took the microphone, bemoaning how she lost $150,000 to the scheme.
When Shields asked if the matter had been reported to the police, the woman said she "cannot recall", sparking more laughter from the audience. She was among several participants left hushed as Shields tried to keep the forum focused on its theme: 'Loud it up! Strengthening Integrity Through Innovation'.
The forum featured the launch of a CAPRI study dubbed "Anti-Corruption Innovations: Strengthening Jamaica's Integrity" and featured discussions by Professor Trevor Munroe, executive director of National Integrity Action ; Colonel Desmond Edwards from the Major Organised Crime and Anti-corruption Agency; and civil society advocate Jeanette Calder.
As the Cash Plus , Shields and the panellists were forced to address the issue, though offering limited satisfaction for those rankled individuals in the audience.
"Carlos Hill, Olint ... they impacted Jamaica's GDP to the extent of between 12 to 25 per cent. As potent as it is a great tale of personal suffering, it hit our country as a whole very hard," stressed Munroe.
At least 50 Ponzi schemes in last 10-15 years
"I counted at least 50 Ponzi schemes, including Stanford from Antigua, in the last 10-15 years, each of which were investigated, prosecuted, and convicted," argued Professor Trevor Munroe, executive director of the National Integrity Action.
"Yet in our country, the same file that the Financial Services Commission passed to the authorities here was passed to the Turks & Caicos authorities and to the American authorities, who utilised it to get a conviction.
"Only later on, as a result of a confiscation order in the Supreme Court of Turks and Caicos of April 2011 do we then discover that David Smith donated US$5 million to the Jamaica Labour Party, prior to the 2007 elections, and US$2 million to the People's National Party.
"So we are looking at an interconnection between great wealth, influence, and a lack of professionalism in certain sectors, while there is great professionalism in others," continued Munroe.
Never convicted locally
Smith, the founder of collapsed Ponzi scheme Olint, was sentenced to 30 years in a US prison after being found guilty on 23 counts of wire fraud, conspiracy, and money-laundering charges. He was never found guilty of any charges locally despite allegedly defrauding millions from Jamaicans.
Last week, Cash Plus boss Carlos Hill walked from the Home Circuit Court a free man after prosecutor Adley Duncan told Justice Chester Stamp that the prosecution was offering no evidence against Hill.
Hill was charged with fraudulently inducing persons to invest in Cash Plus, which collapsed in 2008, with more than $10 billion for over 40,000 investors. Duncan said that only one person who provided a statement came forward.