FORMER finance minister Brian Kuei Tung said yesterday that he cannot live on $2,000 a week as ordered by the High Court recently and intends to challenge the ruling.
"How do they expect me to live on that amount of money!" Kuei Tung exclaimed during an interview with the Express yesterday in Miami.
"If I was only able to spend $2,000 a week, do you think I would have been here in Miami? I fighting that to the end. In fact I ignoring them," he said.
On May 27, the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Geoffrey Henderson obtained an ex-parte order freezing the sale of Kuei Tung's assets located in Trinidad and Tobago and overseas, including a luxury apartment, located at Turnberry Towers, Aventura, in north Miami and a house located at Victoria Park Road, Fort Lauderdale, Miami.
The court order also limits Kuei Tung's living expenses to $2,000 but allows him to increase the sum if he can reach an agreement with the DPP or failing that he may apply to the court to vary the terms of the order.
On May 28, Florida Judge Jeri Cohen granted an order enforcing the local High Court order which allowed Kuei Tung to complete the sale of the US million-dollar apartment but debars him from using the proceeds of the sale.
Failure to comply with the terms of the order could lead to a contempt of court charge, an offence punishable by imprisonment or a fine and any person who "does anything with helps or permits Kuei Tung or his daughters, Sonia Kuei Tung and Brigid Duncan, to breach the terms of the order may also be held in contempt of court".
The State claimed that Kuei Tung transferred the two properties to his daughters for the sum of US$10, a claim the former minister denied saying that he had nothing to hide or that he was seeking to hide his assets by transferring them to his daughters.
"It is quite contrary because I transferred the property to my name in order to sell it. It is two years now since I have been charged and if I wanted to get rid of my assets I could have done it a long time ago," he said.
Kuei Tung is jointly charged with former UNC work and transport minister Sadiq Baksh, and several other businessmen, with allegedly defrauding the Airports Authority, the Government and the people of this country of over $144 million during the construction of the Piarco Airport New Terminal Development Project.
He is also charged with a series of offences relating to the alleged fraud of $19 million and misbehaviour in public office in another phase of the project and is due to re-appear in court on June 15.
The State has alleged that proceeds of the alleged fraud were used to obtain the several assets including the Miami real estate properties.
Kuei Tung claimed yesterday that he was being victimised politically and said while he did not want to ascribe any ulterior motives he was concerned that the law-enforcement and prosecution arms of the State were allegedly being controlled by politicians.
Decked in short pants and T-shirt, Kuei Tung, who is currently out on bail, told the Express that he sold the Turnberry Towers apartment for US$1 million yesterday and was in Miami to complete the sale of the condominium. He said that he intends to remain in the United States for a few more days to relax.
"The apartment was sold for US$1 million this morning and the money has been sent to my account in Trinidad. There has been a lot of speculation about how much the apartment is worth including suggestions that it was worth US $1.2 million but that is not true and has been sold for $1 million," he said.
The local court order commands Kuei Tung to forward the proceeds of the sale into an interest-bearing account in Trinidad and Tobago and "immediately thereafter provide the Director of Public Prosecutions with the details of the account".
The DPP application for the order, obtained under the Proceeds of Crime Act, to freeze the assets of Kuei Tung in the event he is convicted of the charges and to enable the State to confiscate them as proceeds of the alleged fraud.
The former finance minister said he was concerned that the details of the court proceedings in Miami, which led to his assets being frozen, appeared in the newspapers and is promising that he will fight back.
"When this is all over I will be suing the newspapers and the Government. Don't worry, money will be coming my way," Kuei Tung declared.
He also admitted that he had lost weight but said it was due to him working out.
"The amount of pressure they putting on me if I take it on they would have killed me by now but all I doing is resting and exercising so I fitter than ever," Kuei Tung ended.