Licensed firearms dealer joins UNC MP on fraud charges

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Hugh Leong Poi –

A BUSINESSMAN jointly charged with Opposition MP David Lee for conspiring to defraud the State of $1.4 million in motor vehicle taxes from the purchase of a $2.3 million Mercedes Benz AMG G 63 car from New Zealand surrendered to police on Tuesday.

Hugh Leong Poi, 54, a licensed firearms dealer, turned himself in officers of the Financial Investigation Branch (FIB) at Tower C, Waterfront Complex, shortly before 10 am and was charged with a single offence.

Leong Poi, who owns Sports Outlet Holdings and related companies, was released on $800,000 bail approved by Justice of the Peace Stephen Young and is scheduled to appear before a magistrate on October 12. He is being represented by Sophia Chote SC, Devesh Maharaj, Alexia Romero and Jose Young.

According to the charge, Leong Poi is accused of conspiring with Lee between March 24 and June 8, 2019 to defraud the State of $1.4 million.

Head of the FIB Snr Supt Wendell Lucas laid the charge after receiving instructions from Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Roger Gaspard SC.

Last Friday, Lee, the member of parliament for Pointe-a-Pierre, and Opposition Whip, also surrendered to the FIB with his attorneys, and was slapped with two charges – that he conspired with Leong Poi to defraud the State of $1.4 million by obtaining tax exemptions in the sum of $1.4 million for the purchase of a Mercedes Benz and falsely claimed the purchase of the car was for his use and benefit as an MP.

Lee, a deputy political leader of the UNC, was released on $1 million bail and is scheduled to appear in court on October 12.

The State alleges that the car was bought for Leong Poi who was not entitled to tax exemptions as are members of Parliament (MPs). MPs, as part of of their terms and conditions, are exempt from paying motor vehicle taxes and customs duties. They cannot sell the vehicle before the expiration of two years without paying the relevant taxes.

According to investigators, Lee was granted total exemptions in the sum of $1,416,292.65 for the purchase of the car which included $293,094.02 in value added tax (VAT), $298,650 in motor vehicle tax and $824,548.63 in customs duty.

In a statement on Saturday, Lee said the charges against him were nothing short of a “political witch hunt and distraction by this Government.” He said he had faith in the independent institutions of the Judiciary and “I await my day in court to prove my innocence.”

He denied the allegations that he conspired to defraud the State of taxes and claimed he owned the Benz which was in his name which he declared to the Integrity Commission each year since the purchase.

“Put simply, I have been charged for a vehicle that I am the legal owner of, but this is an issue I am confident, given the proof, will be vindicated in our nation’s courts,” his statement said.