Wed | May 31, 2023

Financial sector secure and stable, despite SSL fallout – Johnson Smith

Published:Saturday | March 25, 2023 | 12:27 AMGeorge Ruddock - Gleaner Writer
A section of the audience in attendance at the community meeting at the Jamaican High Commission.
A section of the audience in attendance at the community meeting at the Jamaican High Commission.
Senator Kamina Johnson Smith addressing the audience at the community meeting held at the Jamaican High Commission. Looking on at left is Acting High Commissioner Mrs Patrice Laird Grant.
Senator Kamina Johnson Smith addressing the audience at the community meeting held at the Jamaican High Commission. Looking on at left is Acting High Commissioner Mrs Patrice Laird Grant.
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LONDON:

Jamaica’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Senator Kamina Johnson Smith, has assured Jamaicans in the UK that the island’s financial institutions are secure and stable, despite the fallout from the recent multimillion-dollar fraud at the Kingston-based investment firm Stocks and Securities Limited (SSL).

Speaking at a community meeting at the Jamaican High Commission in London last week, Johnson Smith said that although SSL is a private entity, Jamaicans overseas need to be aware that the matter is being taken seriously by the Government and a thorough investigation is under way.

Johnson Smith said: “I, like many of you, felt the shame, embarrassment, shock and distress that something like this could have happened to hard-working Jamaicans, and especially to Usain Bolt, one of our star athletes, and the many other investors who were affected by the fraud.

“These were people who believed in Jamaica and invested in Jamaica, and to see this dishonesty perpetuated upon them was upsetting to every Jamaican, whether at home or overseas.

“I want to give assurances, on behalf of the Government, that no stone will be left unturned as we get to the bottom of this despicable crime.

“Our well-trained local investigators have had assistance from the FBI, and the Government has also secured additional support from a UK-based forensic auditing firm called Kroll Associates to help with the tracing of the money, and to find out what went where and when.

“This is not a political issue and should not be made into one. This is straight dishonesty and we are ensuring that all the resources needed to be put behind the investigative efforts for this kind of criminality are put in place. That is what we can do, and it is what we are doing.”

NO SYSTEMIC FAILURES

Johnson Smith further assured the audience that there were no systemic failures within the banking and financial sector in Jamaica, despite recent reports of fraud at a number of these entities.

She said: “Our financial institutions are strong and secure, and international bodies like the International Monetary Fund have recognised our financial sector as stable.

“The funds held by SSL amounted to two per cent within the non-deposit-taking institutions (stocks and traders) and is 0.6 per cent of the entire asset held within the island’s financial sector. So as difficult an issue as it has been, from a systemic perspective it is not a failure of our financial institutions.

“You are the ambassadors for Jamaica on this issue. So when you hear people say they are not sending money to or investing in Jamaica any more, let them know that our financial sector is secure and stable.

“Jamaica is open for business and we are doing well from an economic perspective, and it is important that we don’t, ourselves, become authors of doom for the sector. I am giving you the facts so that you cannot lose confidence in the financial sector. And as our ambassadors, please encourage others not to do so, either.”

The foreign minister also touched on other matters during her address to a full house at the high commission..

On the matter of the compensation scheme for victims of the 2017 Windrush scandal, she noted that while progress was slow, the Jamaican Government was still monitoring the process of redress for victims.

She said: “There has been some positive update on the Windrush matter, in that up to January 2023, the total amount that have been paid or offered as payment out of the scheme was £65.9 million. At the same time, 3,383 Jamaicans, out of a total of just over 8,000 Commonwealth citizens affected, have been documented as citizens or given leave to remain indefinitely in the UK under the scheme.

“We very much welcome these developments, and the Government has been assured that there is a continued effort to not only improve, but to continue to engage with everyone who has been affected.”

DIASPORA CONFERENCES

Johnson Smith also advised the audience that within the coming months, officials in her ministry will be planning to hold the biannual regional diaspora conferences, including in the UK.

She said: “Diaspora engagement remains a critical part of the foreign policy of Jamaica, and it is important for us to ensure that mechanism are in place to continue to expand, grow and improve in order to attract more diaspora membership.

“We have expanded to 14 regions, including Asia and the Pacific, Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, but there is more work to be done to enrich the value of the discussions coming out of the council engagements.”

For the UK conference, Johnson Smith emphasised that while it will be organised by the diaspora council in tandem with the high commission, she hopes that it will have the widest collaboration between organisations and associations that are established in the UK, to ensure a positive and enriched conference to keep the momentum after the Jamaica 60 celebrations last year.

Following her address, Johnson Smith fielded a number of questions from the audience on various topics, including land registry difficulties, citizenship matters, and problems encountered with clearing shipments of charitable donations at the ports.