By Kenneth Rijock
MIAMI, USA -- Reliable sources in the Bahamas have reported that a government agency there has frozen corporate bank accounts controlled by Cayman Islands securities trader, Ryan Bateman. The companies named are Bahamas Exploration Limited, and Atlantic Petroleum Limited.
Bateman's criminal past has recently been the topic of heated discussion in parliament in Nassau. Opposition leaders have repeatedly questioned the advisability of the government working with a known fugitive accused of being a fraudster, who made a large payment for oil exploration rights and received a licence in what are alleged to be suspicious circumstances, involving possible official corruption.
The stolen money, which was tracked by investigators, was transferred from the Cayman Islands corporation, Bateman & Company Limited, to The Bahamas. The amount frozen is not known; Cayman sources assert that more than $450 million was taken from the accounts of retired North American investors. Implicated in the massive fraud are Sharon Lexa Lamb, Ryan Bateman, Derek Buntain, and Fernando Moto Mendes, all of whom except Mendes are known to have fled Grand Cayman.
The local regulator, the Cayman Islands Monetary Authority (CIMA), has taken no action to investigate this scandal, believed to be one of the largest in the Cayman Islands in recent years. Some critics have accused it of gross negligence, and official malfeasance; others have speculated that the true reason for the agency's inaction is rooted in corruption.
Bateman, who claims a 15-year background in oil exploration, was a Cayman-based Canadian securities trader with a history of fraud in his native Alberta. He is now believed to be in hiding in Panama, where he and his brother own and operate an unlicensed wealth management company. He claims to have foreclosed on certain corporate exploration rights, which position is hotly contested by American investors, who assert his actions have no legal basis.
Bahamas Exploration Limited, which is incorporated in the Isle of Man, where Sharon Lexa Lamb comes from, was formerly known as Falkland Gold & Minerals Limited, and appears to have had no successes in the Falkland Islands or Cuba, notwithstanding receiving a larger amount of investment capital. There are also reports that audits were not conducted or filed by the company.
Bateman and Lamb appear to be in the centre of a scheme to divert stolen investor money into a massive Caribbean oil exploration and drilling operation, including a joint venture with Cuba, which has long sought to find productive oil wells in the region. Both Bateman and Lamb have a close relationship with Cuban officials, alleged to be from the intelligence services, and involved in the use of financial crime to raise capital for expensive oil drilling projects.
Kenneth Rijock is a banking lawyer turned-career money launderer (10 years), turned-compliance officer specialising in enhanced due diligence, and a financial crime consultant who publishes a Financial Crime Blog. The Laundry Man, his autobiography, was published in the UK on 5 July 2012.