Scandal-struck Canadian Premier League eyes new stadium
Organisers for a proposed professional T20 league in Canada announced this week that they are seeking a location in the greater Toronto area for a planned $700m, 35000-strong stadium. Roy Singh, the businessman spearheading the project, it is now learnt, was sentenced to prison for four and a half years in 2007 for his role in a multi-million dollar fraud case.
According to court documents seen by ESPNcricinfo, Singh, the chairman and chief executive of Canadian Premier League T20 LP, pleaded guilty in 2006 to a charge of "fraud over $5,000." He was convicted of swindling the now defunct i-Trade Finance Inc., of $8 million ($US 5.25 million) between 2001 and 2003. Roy Singh is an alias for Rohit Ablacksingh, the name listed in court documents. He was released on parole in the summer of 2008, according to news reports in the Toronto Sun, despite objections to the parole board from i-Trade's former president Parker Gallant over Singh's failure to compensate those affected.
"Mr. Singh has been open and frank about his past legal troubles with me," said Bob Mitchell, president of Canadian Premier League. "What happened occurred more than a decade ago. It has absolutely nothing to do with today. I believe in giving people second chances. Mr. Singh wants the chance to do something great for Canada and cricket. He realises there will always be people who will bring up his past but all he can do is move forward."
The Canadian Premier League web site states that Singh received a 2003 Entrepreneur of the Year award by the Etobicoke Chamber of Commerce and his aggressive entrepreneurial spirit has acted as a driving force for the proposed T20 league and stadium.
However, the January 11, 2007 sentence summary for the case that sent Singh to prison, said that he "had no business receiving such an honour," because Justice A M Gans said Webworx, Singh's company, "had no business to speak of in the year in question" other than the fraud it was found guilty for.
In his capacity as chief executive of Webworx Inc., Singh "through a sophisticated array of paper, faxes, emails and fictional characters, in addition to unseemly acts of ingratiation and self-promotion if not instances of disarming behavior, was able to persuade the executives and employees of i-Trade that Webworx had ongoing and profitable contracts" when in fact no such things existed. Based on false documents through a false identity, Webworx obtained millions in financing from and eventually bankrupted i-Trade. Justice Gans called Singh's behavior in the case as "Machiavellian in the extreme" and said that time in prison would give him a chance to get "treatment for his seeming sociopathic behavior."
In relation to the Canadian Premier League, Singh and his fellow organizers also stated they were looking for investors in franchises to support a 10-team tournament in Canada, which has been delayed since 2013 and is now targeting an August 2015 start date at a temporary facility until the proposed $700 million stadium plan is approved. According to the press release, each team in the league would have starting line-ups comprised of eight Canadian domestic players and three from overseas.
Among those listed on the web site as part of the Canadian Premier League management are West Indian batsman Shivnarine Chanderpaul and Emma Everett, player agent to several West Indian players including Dwayne Bravo. The Canadian Premier League web site and Singh's social media pages are also flooded with images of Singh posing with public officials and high profile cricket personalities, including Sir Richie Richardson sporting a Canadian Premier League hat alongside Singh, seemingly in an effort to build support for his proposed project.
The most recent instance of Canada hosting Test level international players was in May 2012 when a much-hyped exhibition match turned into a major debacle. Local organising group Kat Rose attempted to stage a T20 All-Star game at the Rogers Centre, home of Major League Baseball's Toronto Blue Jays, with tickets listed at face value from $25 to $199. The projected profits for the event were pinned to targeted gate sales driven by the participation of six Pakistani players, including Misbah-ul-Haq, Saeed Ajmal and Shahid Afridi. The Pakistani players withdrew less than 48 hours before the match when No Objection Certificates could not be secured by the organisers. Brian Lara was also scheduled to play, but pulled out on the morning of the match after he was not paid his match fee prior to the start of the game.
Most of the other cricketers who travelled to the event did play, but sued Kat Rose over unpaid match fees as well as reimbursements for flights and accommodation. FICA also attempted to intervene on behalf of 16 international players, including Sanath Jayasuriya, Tino Best, Jacob Oram, Tim Southee, Mark Boucher, Brendan Taylor and Stuart MacGill.
Peter Della Penna is ESPNcricinfo's USA correspondent. @PeterDellaPenna