2 fraud charges over car deal – MP Lee on $1m bail

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

CHARGED: The UNC’s Pointe-a-Pierre MP David Lee who has been slapped with two fraud-related charges by police. FILE PHOTO –

OPPOSITION United National Congress (UNC) member and Pointe-a-Pierre MP David Lee has been charged with one count of fraudulently obtaining tax exemptions on the purchase of a vehicle and one count of conspiracy to defraud.

Police confirmed to Newsday that Lee was charged by an officer at the Financial Investigations Branch (FIB), Tower C, International Waterfront Centre, Port of Spain on Friday afternoon.

He was granted $1 million bail by a justice of the peace to cover both charges. Sources said Lee went to the FIB office on his own volition, accompanied by his attorneys.

As the MP and his attorneys left the office, Newsday tried to speak with him. Asked why he was leaving the FIB offices, he said, “This is the PNM at its best!” Lee added that he would give further details over the weekend.

The UNC issued a press release on Friday evening condemning the charges, declaring its unwavering support for Lee and accusing the PNM government of using “operatives in the Police Service,” to try and embarrass the MP.

Lee, a deputy political leader of the UNC, is being represented by attorneys Wayne Sturge, Devesh Maharaj, Kandace Bharath-Nahous and Alexia Romero. He is expected to appear in court on October 12.

The charges

According to FIB sources, one of the charges stated that during the period March 24-June 8, 2029, Lee conspired with another person to defraud the State of $1,416,292.65 on the purchase of a Mercedes Benz AMG G63 wagon, which was purported to be for the use of the MP but was bought for someone else who is not entitled to tax exemptions.

The other charge was that in the same period, Lee falsely and dishonestly applied for and obtained tax exemptions of $1,416,292.65 on the purchase of the Mercedes Benz for Lee’s use and in the performance of his official duties.

Lee was questioned by the FIB in August.

The UNC in its release, issued in the name of the party’s PRO Kirk Meighoo, said of the charges, “It is a deliberate, calculated and well-timed distraction by agents of the PNM to save the Government from unrelenting condemnation by the population.

“This is the start of a reign of terror that we warned about. It comes when the UNC and other opposition voices are in the ascendancy.”

‘He will be vindicated’

The release said that Lee, the party’s Whip, was innocent and will be eventually vindicated after the case spends 20 years in the court system. The party demanded that the matter be dealt with expeditiously.

The UNC said this was typical PNM behaviour aided and abetted by “complicit operatives within the police service.”

Lee has been the MP for Pointe-a-Pierre since 2015.

The release also reminded of what it described as recent collusion which saw what it termed the illegal withdrawal of a Police Service Commission merit list for the post of commissioner of police.

The party also questioned the legitimacy of the evidence against Lee.

“The UNC does not expect anything different from the current leadership of the Police Service who seem to be working very closely with the PNM, even openly in press conferences.”

Any right-thinking person, the release added, would ask why Lee would do what he is accused of doing when there was no benefit to be had by him.

Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar and acting Commissioner of Police McDonald Jacob  could not be reached for responses on Friday evening, as calls to their cellphones went unanswered.