Thu | Sep 28, 2023

Panton alleges SSL founder made 'offer' for fraud confession

Published:Monday | May 29, 2023 | 1:25 PM
The former client relationship manager, made the claim in her defence in a lawsuit brought against her and nine others by Jean Forde, an investor. - File photo

Jean-Ann Panton, the only person charged in the alleged $3 billion fraud at Stocks and Securities Limited (SSL) claims she "confessed" because of an alleged "offer" from her former boss and the company's founder, Hugh Croskery.

The former client relationship manager made the claim in her defence in a lawsuit brought against her and nine others by Jean Forde, an investor. Croskery is the third defendant. 

"In trepidation, the second defendant (Panton) says that the background of the alleged confession was premised, on an offer made by the third defendant (Croskery) on behalf of the first defendant (SSL). The said offer was an inducement and the statement would not have been made otherwise," she said in the document filed in the Supreme Court on May 25. 

She continued: "The second defendant (Panton) therefore puts the claimant to strictly prove the validity of the alleged confession statement and allegations according to law."

Details of the so-called offer were not outlined. 

Croskery's attorney, King's Counsel Peter Champagnie said Panton's latest allegation "does not accord with my instructions from Croskery". 

"I would not want to venture into a discourse concerning what it is that Panton is alleged to have said. Her matter is best before the court and it is best dealt with in the court," he told The Gleaner on Monday. 

According to the signed confession statement dated January 7, 2023, Panton admitted that she "used various mechanisms to take money from clients" and that she "created false statements to provide to the clients reflecting what they should have in their accounts and not the sum actually had in their accounts". She added that she stole the money "over the course of several years". 

The statement, which was made to SSL as part of an internal investigation, named 39 clients whose accounts had a total value of over $700 million. 

Panton said she took approximately 20 per cent of that sum, in addition to a further $109 million. 

An account in the name of Welljen Limited, a holding company owned by sports great Usain Bolt was not mentioned on the list and SSL said in a subsequent statement that it was unaware that the portfolio was affected. 

"I feel remorse for my actions," Panton said in the statement that bears a seal and signature from a Justice of the Peace. 

A note at the end of the statement said: "I gave the above statement... voluntarily and of my own free will and I am of sound mind. I confirm that I obtained legal advice before swearing to this statement and the said statement was given in the presence of my attorney-at-law."

Bolt's account value plummeted from $2 billion (US$12.7 million) in October 2022 to J$1.8 million or US$12,000 in January when he checked, following an alert from Panton, his legal team has said. 

Panton, who worked at SSL for over 25 years until she was dismissed in January, was charged in February. That's just over a month after SSL reported the fraud to the regulator Financial Services Commission (FSC) on January 10.

On January 17, the FSC took temporary management of the company which is involved in a court battle with the regulator over the appointment of a trustee. 

Forde, an 80-year-old woman, is suing SSL and the other defendants, alleging she was defrauded of US$830,000. Welljen has also sued SSL. 

Both matters, which are being heard together, are scheduled to be mentioned in the Supreme Court on Wednesday. 

Last week, the chief technical director and head of the Financial Investigations Division (FID) Selvin Hay said the investigation into the case is “progressing”.

In a Supreme Court filing on March 10, the FSC declared that SSL was “insolvent”, saying that the company did not have enough money to pay its debts.

The regulator has also sought the court's permission to present a petition under the Companies Act for the winding-up or liquidating of SSL; leave to appoint Tomlinson as trustee; and confirmation of “full and exclusive powers of management” of SSL vested in the FSC effective January 17.

- Jovan Johnson

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