PACIFIC PALISADES, California (Reuters) - Former world number one Vijay Singh expressed astonishment on Wednesday as fallout from U.S. fraud charges against Texas billionaire Allen Stanford rippled across the globe.
Stanford and two other top executives at Stanford Financial Group were accused on Tuesday by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission of fraudulently selling $8 billion (5.6 billion pounds) in high-yield certificates of deposit.
Singh, a three-times major winner, has an endorsement deal with Stanford and is the global ambassador for a charity initiative on the PGA Tour created by Stanford Financial Group.
“I am just surprised by it all and I really don’t have any comments,” Fijian Singh, wearing a golf shirt with a Stanford logo, told Reuters on the eve of Thursday’s opening round at the Northern Trust Open.
“He has done so much for charity and St Jude is his big thing. He gives a lot to charity there and also to a lot of other places. I hope everything will be okay once they find out what’s going on.”
Eagles for St. Jude, set up by Stanford Financial Group, raises money from every eagle recorded on the PGA Tour in donations to St. Jude, one of the world’s premier paediatric cancer research centres.
Singh, along with fellow players Camilo Villegas and Morgan Pressel, has heavily promoted the programme and last year donated $300,000 to St. Jude for the eagles he personally carded on the 2008 Tour.
Asked whether he had any concerns over his endorsement deal with Stanford, Singh replied: “We are assuming a lot. Nothing is guilty unless it is proven. It’s all assumption at the moment and I have really nothing more I can say about it.”
Pressel, who competes on the women’s LPGA Tour, could not be reached for comment on Wednesday.
However, her manager Chris Armstrong told Reuters: “Regarding Stanford, we are unable to comment at this time. We will continue to follow things as they develop.”
Stanford, who has denied any wrongdoing, also sponsors an event on the PGA Tour, the June 11-14 St. Jude Championship in Memphis.
PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem said on Tuesday the tournament would go ahead as planned this year, despite the developments.
“We have no comment regarding the situation with Allen Stanford and certain of his companies at this time,” he said in a statement.
”However, we want to categorically state that the PGA TOUR event in Memphis will be played as scheduled this year.
Editing by John Mehaffey