With the APNU+AFC government facing a barrage of questions over how he came to be single-sourced in a pharmacy bond deal, curiosity surrounds businessman Lawrence ‘Larry’ Singh.
Stabroek News reached out to Singh on Friday at his Middle Street office but was told by his security personnel that he was not in the country. A previous attempt by Stabroek News to speak with Singh about the $12.5m bond deal resulted in the reporter being asked to leave the premises.
What is clear from a variety of sources is that Singh has had a longstanding relationship with the PNC, the predecessor of the PNCR which is the main component of A Partnership for National Unity (APNU). APNU is also the senior partner in the governing coalition.
Singh gives his address at the Deeds Registry as in Miami, Florida, and Camp Street. He also rents the former Sidewalk Café and Jazz Club, now renamed Midtown Restaurant and Bar, located at 176 Middle Street, Georgetown.
This newspaper was told by persons close to Singh that “he is a businessman” and that he owns and operates several multi-million businesses here.
These include a licensed gun and ammunition dealership, which he operates from the top floor of the 176 Middle Street property. A sign on the door adjacent to Singh’s office at Middle Street informs of the arms business operation and has several photos of guns which the company carries.
Singh has also been single-sourced for arms supplies to the Guyana Defence Force (GDF). At a post-Cabinet Press Conference this year, Minister of Natural Resources Raphael Trotman and Minister of State Joseph Harmon were asked about objections raised to the single-source contract to the GDF.
Trotman informed that Public Security Minister, Khemraj Ramjattan had been appointed to chair a newly-established National Security Procurement Commit-tee, which would be responsible for reviewing the procurement of arms and ammunition for the Disciplined Services. “Cabinet did not turn down a memorandum in the name of Larry Singh. One did come up and some more information has been sought but it has not turned down or refused …it was discovered that Mr Singh’s enterprise had been supplying weapons and materials to the Guyana Defence Force (GDF)…,” said Trotman while also explaining that arms are procured in a different way than other services given the sensitivity.
An associate of Singh told this newspaper that the businessman hails from Essequibo.
He was reported to have had a falling out with late Executive President Forbes Burnham in the 1980s which led to him leaving the country.
He was part owner of the flopped Tropical Airways airline whose business nosedived only after a few months in operation in the early 1990s.
However, this did not deter Singh as he invested again in the now defunct GA 2000 airlines but not without filed objections to the United States Department of Transportation (DOT) by alleged former partners Shahadeo Sukhram and Dhaniram Rambali among others. Documents filed with the DOT dating back to 1987 from them have given unflattering descriptions of Singh in the aviation industry.
A prominent city businessman said that while Singh continued to visit Guyana after the People’s Progressive Party/Civic won the elections in 1992, he only really got involved in the business sector during the last five years starting with operations for transporting fuel for the Guyana Power and Light Company.
He established Linden Holding Inc. in 2012, after garnering a contract to supply the Linden bauxite company with fuel.
Singh is a People’s National Congress Reform member and attended the party’s congress which ended last week.
Sources told this newspaper that Singh has many government friends some of whom frequent his Middle Street business establishment. It is for this reason that observers are pressing to know who first initiated contact with Singh for the rental of the Sussex Street bond. Singh’s participation was questionable as he had not been engaged in this business and the requirements for single-sourcing were not fulfilled. The government has thus far remained silent on how Singh came to be chosen. Following the controversy over the arrangement with Singh, the government set up a Cabinet sub-committee to evaluate the bond contract. The report from the committee is to be discussed by Cabinet.