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An Information Guide to Duck Key in the Florida Keys


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pritam Singh - Positive and Critical Press

 

Pritam Singh

Screen shot of Pritam Singh from Dominic Klyve's website

 

This information on Pritam Singh is offered because of Pritam's past involvment and current ties to Duck Key, i.e., construction of Hawk's Cay Village, the controversial sewage proposal, the transfer of building rights to Duck Key from Marathon's Overseas Motel,and his present position on the board of Hawk's Cay Village Association.

 

POSITIVE PRESS

An item praising Pritim Singh and his wife appeared in the May 5, 2006 Vol.1 No.1 edition of "Conch Color", Key West's new Photographic Journal. The article credited Pritam Singh and his wife Ann Johnston with underwriting the performance of the Key West Symphony Orchestra at an outdoor "pop" concert. The concert was held in the courtyard of Fort Zachary Taylor and the Symphony entertained "thousands of locals". The orchestra conductor, Sebrina Alfonso, was so pleased with Singh's generosity that "To show her gratitude Sebrina asked Pritam to take the stage and conduct a number, and he did it with flourish."

In addition to Singh and his wife, other members of the Singh family in attendance were son Noah Singh, daughter Simran Johnston, daughter Charan Korhonen, son-in-law Rob Korhonen, and son Tyler Reynolds.

The name Simran as in Simran Johnston above was used in the naming of Simiran Lane in Pritam's gated development at Hawk's Cay on Duck Key. Wikipedia explains that "In Sikhism, Simran (Punjabi) refers to the repetition or recital of the God Names: Nam or of the Holy Text from the Two Granths of the Sikhs: the Sri Guru Granth Sahib and the Dasam Granth. The word is derived from Sanskrit word Smaran meaning Remembrance. Also translates to ‘Meditation’ – The verb Simar, which is derived from Simran means meditating. More on Simram at Wikipedia

The Singh Company, both openly and privately, has made numerous contributions to local Keys' charities. In Marathon, the Domestic Abuse Shelter and the Grace Jones Day Care Center (a $300,000 challenge gift in 2005) are two organizations that have benefited from Pritam Singh's generousity.

Pritam Singh recently contributed to the Community Foundation of the Florida Keys and is a donor in the $50,000 and above category for 2005.

The Singh Hurricane Relief Fund granted $100,000 to Key West's Catholic Church - St. Mary’s Star of the Sea. Singh Hurricane Relief funds were used to replace household appliances to Wilma’s storm surge for several hundred Key West families.

Singh and his wife, Ann Johnston, are heavily involved in philanthropic work. Since 1999, they has given away several million dollars to charities.

A website, http://www.pritamsingh.net/philanthropy.html explains that "the Singh Company, Pritam and his family have donated over $900,000 so far in 2006.

Institutions donated to include:
Key West Symphony Orchestra
American Cancer Society
Corcovado Foundation
Southernmost Hockey Club
Marathon Rotary Club
Grace Jones Daycare Community Center
Key West Police Department Love Fund
Coral City Elks Lodge
Habitat for Humanity
Adopt a Kindergarten Class
The Sunbeam Christian Day Care Center
Sea Shepherd
Key West Skate Park
The Cultural Preservation Society
Global Citizens Circle
Lord of the Seas Lutheran Church
Unified Buddhist Church
The Sharon Academy

 

Praise by fellow Traveler, Dominic Klyve

Dominic Klyve and Allyson who traveled with Singhs and were employed to tutor the Singh children while the family traveled widely throughout the world have created a remarkable website describing their journeys. The web pages though mainly about sights seen by Dominic Klyve and Allyson provide insights, and a few photos of the Singh "cast of characters".

Pritam Singh is described as a father,"Pater familias", in contrast to his public image of land developer. On a page entitled "Who is Pritam Singh?" Dominic Klyve writes,

"The values from Buddhism inform many aspects of Pritam's life and business dealings. Pritam states that he believes he is a "caretaker" of the land, and backs this up with his environmentally sensitive designs and generous donations to environmental causes.

The environment is not the only cause Pritam, is passionate about (again really passionate, this is not a man that does things half-heartedly). Issues of social justice and social responsibility are clearly important to Pritam. He is a generous donor to at least three schools that we know of, and opened a huge day care center for families in need in Florida. We also witnessed his generosity in action countless times while traveling with him. Pritam found a way to help individuals in every country we traveled in – donations, scholarships, tipping extremely generously, etc. We, ourselves, were not removed from this generosity. Though employed by the family we traveled every bit as luxuriously as they did – whoo hoo first class plane trips!"

The Ann Johnston-Singhs traveled to India, Bhutan, Nepal - (October-November, 2004); Egypt, Isreal, Vietnem, and Japan (January-March, 2005) and Brazil, Ecuador, Galapagos Islands, and Costa Rica (April-May, 2005).

Exotic travel pictures of this travel may be found (DARMOUTH LINKS NO LONGER ACTIVE)

http://www.math.dartmouth.edu/~klyve/travel/index.html

The images are mainly of Dominic Klyve and Allyson with a rare photo of Pritam or Ann Johnston.

In April of 2005 Dominic Klyve and Allyson stayed at a villa on Simran Lane at Hawk's Cay before we leaving for the Manaus, Brazil portion of the trip.

 

TIME'S ARTICLE

In December of 1989 the magazine Time printed an article entitled "Key West, Florida Pritam Singh's Strange Career - An eccentric developer brings good taste to a tacky island.

The article available in the Time archives describes Singh and his building effort in Key West

". . . one is unsure which jarring and inapposite piece of his biography best begins to explain him: That he is a former SDS organizer who is building a Ritz-Carlton hotel? Or that he is a developer whose fondest wish is to run away with Sea Shepherd, a Greenpeace splinter group, and ram whale ships?"

Singh is described as having

". . . sea-blue eyes, magnified by thick, round glasses; his beard, unshaved since he was 17, is sparse and wiry. Born Paul LaBombard, he was, in adult eyes, a bad influence on anybody who knew him as a teenager. He ran away from his working-class family, smoked dope and organized a high school SDS chapter. Lacking money for college, he spent two winters camping out and gathering shells for a living in Key West. He was arrested at the Mayday antiwar demonstrations in Washington in 1971, and spent three days locked up in the basement of the Department of Justice. Afterward he sought spiritual growth in a Sikh ashram in Massachusetts, where he remained for five years before revolting against the power-hungry leader."


In terms of the Sikh religion and its founders, Time quotes Singh,


"These guys were, like, wacko. They just appeared out of nowhere and were talking about justice and equality. Treat women equally, serve the poor, defend your rights. It fits the social and revolutionary agenda of the American republic to a tee." He shrugs. "Except that we wear beards and turbans."

To read the entire article for a fee go to

http://www.time.com/time/archive/preview/0,10987,959322,00.html

 

SINGH WEBSITE

The Singh website, http://www.pritamsingh.net/biography.html, provides biographical information for free.

 

NEGATIVE PRESS

Pritam Singh is an advisor to the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, and is a former member of the Board of Directors for the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society. His website describes him as "passionate about the environment and social issues."

Pritam Singh and his wife have been the subject of several critical news articles coming out of Canada which deal with animal rights and financing. The articles primarily are critical of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society. The goals of Sea Shepard are laudible, but the investigative articles, one dated April 13, 2006 and entitled "Animal Rights Financing–Making Dollars" with another dated October 2005 do not present Sea Shepherd in a good light. The articles give no favor to Singh and Johnston for their animal rights support.

The Animal Rights Financing article which alleges questionable financial dealings and activities may be found at

http://www.canadafreepress.com/2006/higgins041306.htm

The article written by Myles Higgins, a freelance columnist describes Ms. Ann Johnston, wife of Florida land developer Mr. Pritam Singh, as a big supporter of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society.

The Sea Shepherd website states that the society campaigns in many conservationist areas: defending whales, patroling the Galapagos Islands to help protect the precious marine eco-system, turtles, sharks, sea cucumbers, intervening to stop the illegal use of longlines and the devastation of shark finning, work toward prevention of seal hunts, works against the killing and capturing of dolphins. http://www.seashepherd.org/index.html

A different viewpoint of the Sea Shepherd Conservationist Society (SSCS) may be found at http://www.activistcash.com/organization_overview.cfm/oid/347. Activistcash views the Society as a "violent organization" and a piratical organization which rams and sinks ships.

 

INFORMATION ON SINGH AND COMPANY

The complete Myles Higgins' article is reproduced here (author's stipulation), but it is the later half of the article which Duck Key and Florida Keys residents will find informative. Referenced details and the author's allegations mentioning Singh have been highlighted in red.


Canada Free Press - "Atlantic & East Coast Report

Animal Rights Financing–Making Dollars

By Myles Higgins
Thursday, April 13, 2006


Nothing stirs the ire of animal rights groups like mentioning their fund raising activities. In past articles I’ve examined the finances of some of these organizations, including my favorite Shepherd Paul Watson, leader of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society. It’s an organization that claims one of the reasons it is opposed to the seal hunt in Canada is because the only market for seal products is fur for the fashion industry. Perhaps this claim is the motive behind the group’s attempts to halt sales of Omega 3 health supplements made from seal oil. I mean if the world saw some non-fur markets for seal products opening up it might impact the fund raising capabilities of his group.

The last couple of years, when I have mentioned "the hunt" , the written responses I’ve received have mainly come from zealous believers in animal rights, not from the leaders of animal rights groups. It is only when the topic of their financing has been touched upon that the fur really starts to fly, (no pun intended). It’s only then that the leaders of these groups begin to trip over themselves to respond. Why is that I wonder? Is the light too bright for them?

With this thought in mind, today I’d like to discuss Paul Watson once again. He is as I’ve said, one of my favorites with his self professed pirate ways and all that fun stuff. Besides, at this point in the hunt he seems to be the only one getting any attention anyway (all the others have pretty much closed up their fund raising campaigns by now). With his call for a boycott on Costco, Paul has managed to get a little bit of attention lately so why not give him what he loves best, a news story.

Without further ado and in an effort to prove that my article response theory isn’t just a figment of an overactive imagination, I’ve decided to publish some of the financial information I’ve gathered about Watson and his group over the last few years. Some of this material has been published in other articles before, but I thought it might be interesting to view it all in one place. (Besides I'm feeling a little lazy today and cut & paste is so easy).

Let’s see how long it takes before I get some response.

Oh by the way, to the "save everything" believers in the audience, this article is neither pro or anti sealing so save your breath on that point. OK? It’s strictly financial in nature so let’s fill up on some carbs and try to stay focused on the real point for a while shall we?

Fact: If you visit the Sea Shepherd web site, you will easily find about 15 ways to donate your money to the group. These guys are great at making giving easy for the believers. Methods include:

Online Credit Card;

Call in / Fax Credit Card;

Mail in Donation;

Gift MembershipsMonthly Giving;

Stock Donations (I guess this is where the Society’s Harley Davidson and Exon Mobile stock came from);

Frequent Flyer Miles (yes, they take those too);

Planned Giving and Wills (Even after you’re dead you can keep on giving, what a humanitarian the Shepherd is);

Wish List (This is where they tell you what neat products they want and you can give those to them)

Workplace Giving (If it comes off your paycheck you won’t even miss it folks!!!);

eScrip Shopping Program (another fun one. Stick around for details);

Sea Shepherd Credit Card (I’m not kidding, you can have your very own Sea Shepherd Visa)

Vehicle and Vessel Donation (anyone got a ship they’ve been trying to unload, here’s your chance).

Fact: Some of the items on the Sea Shepherd wish list, at the time I checked it out anyway, included:

"A Flat Screen T.V.";

"DVD Player";

"VHS Player"; and

"Sound System"

Fact: You can also take advantage of their special partner program.

That’s right folks every time you shop with one of their eScrip partners, a percentage of the sale goes directly to helping support the Society and its vegan, save every living creature ideals.

Two of the retail outlets listed are the Sierra Trading Post and a company called Orvis. Sierra is quite proud of its line of leather shoes, while Orvis is equally proud of its line of Bullhide products including carry bags and brief cases. Also listed are Terminix and ChemLawn, both subsidiaries of ServiceMaster. The sole purpose of both these pest control companies is to utilize highly toxic chemicals to kill all insect life in the immediate area. I guess all living things are not created equal

As interesting as Paul Watson’s fund raising activities are, his questionable financial dealings, and those of the Sea Shepherd Society itself, are even more interesting. All items outlined below are a matter of public record since Sea Shepherd is listed as a non-profit organization.

1 - In 2000 Sea Shepherd reported income of $129,749 from consulting fees, but there was no indication what sort of consulting this was, or for whom it was performed. Immediately following, Paul Watson, who has long prided himself in not taking a salary from the society, began doing so.

2 - In 2002 the Sea Shepherd Society passed out $35,000 in grants. Despite IRS requirements to do so, the Society didn’t divulge the recipients.

3 - One of Sea Shepherd’s biggest supporters is Ms. Ann Johnston, wife of Florida land developer Mr. Pritam Singh. Mr. Singh, whose original name is actually Paul LaBombard was banned from banking for life in 1995 and ordered to pay $1.2 million dollars by federal bank regulators for his financing activities. According to the Key News Journal, Singh has also been investigated by the FBI for his questionable business practices and a Key West attorney has filed a lawsuit against him, alleging almost 20 years of criminal activity -- including racketeering and fraud.

Even after these incidents, Mr. Singh was listed as a member of the financial and management advisory board for the Sea Shepherd Society, despite his less than admirable financial history. Records also show major overlap between the names and addresses of many board members for the Sea Shepherd society and various companies owned by Singh and his wife. In fact, Watson’s ex-wife Lisa Distefano, who has been connected with a mysterious organization called OrcaForce, was a board member on one of Singh’s companies. She, along with other members of Sea Shepherd have claimed multiple home addresses over the years, many of which can be traced directly back to Singh properties, including a golf course development he was involved with.

The relationship between Singh and Watson goes much deeper than that.

4 - Ms. Johnston, Singh’s wife, cemented herself as a true friend when she made a donation to the Society, which she claimed was valued at nearly $2.7 million dollars. This gift consisted of a company called "Northern Development Associates", a business with holdings in Alaska including the "Misty Fjords Lodge".  Watson would later claim that the lodge was a research facility and that he lived there.  In reality he never lived there and the lodge was registered with the US forestry service as the only legal commercial fishing lodge inside Misty Fjords National Monument in Alaska.

Tax returns for "Northern Development Associates", the company donated to the Society, show losses of over $550,000 during a three-year period. IRS documents show that the non-profit, donation run, Sea Shepherd society made a series of loans to its wholly-owned affiliate for nearly $900,000.  I have been unable to find any record of repayment on those loans.  In 2002, for the first time, Sea Shepherd's tax returns show the Society had incorporated the company’s losses into its own bottom line. 

On November 8, 2004, the Misty Fjords Lodge (the primary asset of "Northern Development Associates"), was sold to a newly-formed company headed by none other than Pritam Singh, the husband of the original donor.  At the time of the sale the property was identified by the realtor as being listed for $1 million dollars under the appraised value.

So, let’s do the math based on what we know.

 
A donation of a business supposedly valued at 2.7 million is given to the Sea Shepherd Society, allowing the Singhs to claim the amount as a donation. Then, $900,000 worth of Sea Shepherd’s charitable donations (from true believers) is loaned to this company that supposedly had losses of over $550,000.

The losses of the company (and potentially even the $900,000 in defaulted loans) are then claimed by Sea Shepherd Society on its books, resulting in a tax claim of up to $1.4 million.

Then, the company is sold back to its original owners for 1 million less than it was originally claimed to be worth resulting in another potential million dollar tax write off for Sea Shepherd.

The end result:  2.7 million in tax claims for Singh and his wife, up to 2.4 million in tax claims for Sea Shepherd and today the same people who owned the company at the beginning of all this process still own it.

But wait, there’s more.


In April of 1999, the Sea Shepherd Society received a donation of a "Key West Home and Land" in Florida (where the Singhs live) which the Society claimed was valued at $329,500.   Sea Shepherd later reported $64,070 in expenses for maintenance at the property as "Program Service Expenses," indicating the money was spent to further the non-profit organization’s tax-exempt purpose.  Only 2 months after receiving the property, they sold it for $850,000 (about $521,000 more than the original value) yet Sea Shepherd claimed an overall loss on the transaction of more than $265,000 due to related costs.

A satellite photo search at that time found no structures at the location identified as the address of sale.

Although the property is identified as being in the area where the Singhs live, it is not known if they were involved in this transaction since the name of the donor was not found in available documents.


The financial dealings between the Singhs and Watson are interesting to say the least and there are far too many to document here.  To close, I’ll just take a minute to touch on a couple of other interesting items, one of which I might even find a little humorous if the topic wasn’t so sad.

Fact: In 2003, Sea Shepherd claimed that they had issued a grant of $8,000 to OrcaForce International, a group supposedly started by Watson’s ex-wife.   Remember her?  She’s the one who listed one of Singh’s golf course developments as her home address.  At the time of the supposed donation, the OrcaForce address was listed on the society’s web site as a Sea Shepherd International address.

Over the years, many assets have been moved between Sea Shepherd and OrcaForce.  Although OrcaForce has a Canadian address, investigation did not uncover any registration or structural information on the group in either the U.S. or Canada.

Fact: Sea Shepherd donations often take the form of stock in major corporations. Contributions to the society in the past have even included Exxon-Mobile stock valued at nearly $100,000 that was gifted by a lady from Florida.  It is not known if this person is connected with Florida residents Pritam Singh and his wife.

The donation of Exxon-Mobile stock may have been purely legitimate of course, but it’s an odd holding for a society run by a man who said just after hurricane Katrina:   "I won't give one penny for Katrina relief. I’ll give for the animals, but not for relief efforts until the oil companies pony up millions for the destruction caused by global warming."

There you are.  I’ve said my piece. Let the responses roll in.

Myles is freelance columnist originally from the central region of Newfoundland. He now resides with his wife and a terminally lazy Terrier named "Molson" in the beautiful town of Portugal Cove - St. Philips, "Where the sun meets the sea".

Myles' interest in Newfoundland and Labrador political and social issues is obvious in his writing for several publications and on his own web site, Web Talk - Newfoundland and Labrador. A site where Myles dedicates his time to providing an open commentary and discussion forum on newsworthy items of the day."

 

What To Believe

Captain Paul Watson of Sea Sheppard has commented that " It appears that Newfoundland journalism is as incompetent and as unconcerned with truth and facts as the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans.

Under the heading "Scribes of Deceit" Watson states that "The Newfoundland media sees what they want to see, they hear what they want to hear and they publish what they wish to publish without letting inconvenient fact-checking get in the way.

Watson descibes another article by Myles Higgins as "an example of this yellow journalistic rant that poses as journalism" and "a classic case of ignoring the facts . . . . It’s all the gossip, rumor and fabrications fit to print."

 

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