By Eric Rosario
Some detail of Guam businessman Bic Sobti's heist of federal Covid-19 money meant to help Commonwealth residents has surfaced.
Kandit May 14 published the list of vendors awarded a total $54.9 million in CARES Act direct aid funding to the CNMI government. In a Kandit Live cast the same day, we discussed that the one of the largest vendor payables were to a Guam company owned by Mr. Sobti - International Royal Inc. The description on the vendor entry for $2.8 million indicated the purchases were for personal protective equipment, commonly called PPE.
An April 4 invoice that surfaced yesterday shows a breakdown of $2.5 million in purchases by the CNMI government from International Royal. Among the purchases are 250,000 pieces of generic (blue and white) face masks sold to the Commonwealth for $2.99 a piece, or a total of $747,500.
Mr. Sobti sold the Commonwealth 4,000 boxes of gloves for nearly $90,000; 18,000 shirts for $467,100, or an average of $25.95 a shirt; and 100 thermometers at $90 a piece. These are just some of the purchases shown on the invoice.
Mr. Sobti sold the same face masks to the Mayors Council of Guam for $2 a piece, or $100 per box of 50 masks. We published that invoice on May 11.
The problem? Well, International Royal is a company owned and operated on Guam, not the CNMI; and it's a clothing and school uniforms company, not a medical supplies business.
The point hasn't been lost on Congressman Ed Propst (D-Precinct 1, Saipan), who also has pointed out that International Royal is not incorporated in the CNMI, and therefore should not legally have been allowed to receive a sole source contract using federal funds.
"This company from Guam is not registered in the CNMI and doesn't have a local business license," Mr. Propst said. "How did they get a sole source contract?"
The matter may be under investigation by the House Special Committee looking into federal funds expenditures during the pandemic.
Sources tell Kandit News investigators also are looking into what relationship Mr. Sobti has with Gov. Ralph Torres, and how and who introduced the two. Investigators, according to sources, suspect another Guam businessman close with Mr. Torres may have cut a deal for the sole source contract.
"There are businesses here in the CNMI that sell these products, and at cheaper cost," one such source told Kandit on condition of anonymity. "Why did we have to purchase all the way from a Guam company that's not even registered here? That's illegal it seems."