BAIL for the Chinese businessman before the court on a charge of possession of methamphetamine for the purpose of trafficking has not been revoked.
On Friday, senior magistrate Armina Deonarinesingh allowed Hong Fei Wu’s $100,000 bail to continue, but varied the reporting conditions.
Hong now has to report to the Marabella police station five times a week until further ordered.
She did not approve an application by the defence for a change of address, but warned Hong that he is to stay at the new address his lawyers have given until the police do their investigations.
She also warned him he would not be allowed to leave the country without permission from a magistrate and that the police had a duty to monitor his whereabouts, since he complained of possibly being followed by officers.
“Bail continues for now. The court will continue to monitor his appearance before it considers further applications to revoke bail,” she said, as she directed the police to ensure they got all their documentation on record.
On Tuesday, prosecutors asked for Hong’s bail to be revoked on the ground that he breached his bail condition of staying at the La Romaine address he gave the court when he was granted $100,000 bail on August 15.
At Tuesday’s hearing, acting Cpl Gervais argued that the Gulf View, La Romaine, residence named by Hong has been unoccupied since March.
On Friday, Sgt Malloo provided a statement from the landlord of the apartment and a statement from the police officer who went to the address.
“He misled the court by saying he is staying there,” Malloo submitted in support of the application for bail to be revoked.
But Hong’s attorney Larry Williams said the address had been given at the first court appearance by Hong's common-law wife but after he was arrested and charged, the landlady no longer wanted them on the premises.
He maintained that Hong had never shirked his responsibility after being granted bail.
“The purpose of bail is to have him attend court. He has always attended…So to revoke bail is to punish him for something he did not construct. We ask that you do not punish him for the act of another.”
Williams also provided a statutory declaration from Hong’s bailor and a new lease. However, Deonarinesingh said before she approved the change of address, she needed the bail bond, which could take at least three weeks.
In allowing Hong’s bail to continue, Deonarinesingh said the court, at the case-management stage, since the matter will be transferred to the San Fernando first court, was only concerned that he attends court.
“If he is found guilty, he will be punished. If he is found not, the law will take its course...
“I have no reason today, no proper reason, to revoke his bail…But of paramount consideration is that he is before the court. He has been charged, bail has been fixed and he is before the court.
“I told him I would not entertain him in a vehicle. I gave directions for him to go to the Madinah building every time the matter is called and he is there with his attorney.
“The police want five days of reporting and there are some concerns that he needs to be monitored more regularly, bearing in mind he is a first-time offender.
“I have no criminal record for him...If you are a first-time offender or habitual, you’re given different considerations, like everyone else in this country.”
She also addressed concerns about the amount of his bail.
“When he appeared before me, on the bail application, all that was presented to me was a few packets of a white substance. It was on those few packets I fixed bail.
“That is all this court is dealing with.”
At the bail hearing, Deonarinesingh, who is case-managing the matter, admitted to not being familiar with “this item (methamphetamine) or the amount,” nor was there a value estimated by a professional source.
She also admitted it was “irregular” that not all the exhibits were produced in court, as some had been sent to the Forensic Science Centre for analysis.
“This is the first time I have heard forensics become involved in a search and order the items be taken somewhere and some of the items be brought to the court.
“I won’t get involved in what will happen at trial, but I am disappointed.”
Hong was ordered to return to court on September 29, again at the San Fernando district court at the Madinah building.
Also at Friday’s hearing, the police prosecutor raised another “concern,” that Hong tried to “communicate” with acting Cpl Gervais at the police administration building in San Fernando, who “feels threatened by that.”
However, Williams said it was “much ado about nothing,” as all his client did was exchange pleasantries with the prosecutor, since the public car park close to the courthouse was also near the police station.
“He did not go looking for a police officer. I imagine the police station is the safest place for a police officer to be. He was not intimidating any police officer.”
Williams also pointed out there is an armed police officer at the basement entrance of the police administration building, so his client could not have been there.
According to the summary of evidence presented to the court by the police, on August 10, officers from the Special Branch were conducting surveillance at The Residences apartment complex in Tarouba before executing a search warrant for firearm and ammunition possession.
A vehicle, which was mentioned during the hearing, was searched and certain items were allegedly found, including cash and packets of clear crystalline substances said to resemble methamphetamine.
Boxes of cold and flu tablets and other items, including paraphernalia and chemical substances, were also allegedly recovered.
Police allegedly seized cellphones, cash in varying currencies and computer devices during the search. The items found were photographed by crime scene investigators and scientific officers from the FSC took samples of the chemicals and kept 12 packets for further testing.
In their release, the police confirmed officers had discovered cash, precursor chemicals and packets of crystals of various sizes resembling methamphetamine.
The police also said it was the first methamphetamine laboratory in Trinidad and Tobago, and the discovery followed an extensive intelligence-led operation in partnership with US law enforcement agencies.
Two weeks ago, National Security Minister Fitzgerald Hinds appeared to suggest that Hong had fled the country.
The minister was expressing disappointment over the “easily accessible bail” granted to suspects, particularly to non-nationals.
“The methamphetamine laboratory operator, one non-national, was arrested and much to my surprise and much to the demoralisation of the police officers involved, as they reported it to me, the man...was given very, very easily accessible bail and God knows if he may have left the country as well,” Hinds said at the opening day of the Human Impacts of Autonomous Weapons Systems conference at the Hyatt Regency, Port-of-Spain.
Hong is also represented by attorney Toni Roberts.