St. Vincent and the Grenadines Consul General in Canada, Fitz Huggins (iWn photo), left, and an internet photo of the model of vehicle in questions.

A Vincentian diplomat is threatening to sue over questions regarding his purchase of a vehicle that had been leased by the Government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) for his use in Canada.

Fitz Huggins, the SVG Consul General in Toronto says that he will forward to his lawyer for review and advice, comments that Toronto-based Vincentian businessman Marlon Bute made about the transaction.

But Bute, an activist who uses the internet to criticise the Unity Labour Party administration in Kingstown, has maintained his position, saying, on Monday, on Boom FM, an SVG radio station:

“… the consul general, as I have been maintaining, benefitted from a buyout of a lease for which the  Government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines paid. That has been my central point; that remains my central point.

“… it was the money from taxpayers, from the public, from people like you, who paid for the lease on a monthly basis. And so, the buyout amount, which he said was 3,600 [Canadian dollars] (EC$7,200), was a nominal fee and which he paid. So he got a 4-5 years old vehicle for $3,600. You tell me, if to you, that seems, anywhere in the universe, right.”

The scandal surrounds Huggins’ admitted purchase of a 2015 Kia Sorento that the government had leased, brand new, for his use as consul general sometime after he took up the post in August 2013.

In a separate call to the same radio station, Huggins said the previous vehicle, a Honda Odyssey, was run down and was an embarrassment when he arrived at functions in it, and it sometimes broke down along the highway.

“When I returned that vehicle (the Honda Odyssey), the leasing company wanted to take it for free because there was no value on it…

“To tell you how the thing was rundown, I had to go to several companies to get at least $1,500 — I think I got $1,500… so I could put it towards the lease of this new vehicle to reduce the payment monthly,” he said, adding that he was trying to minimise the impact of the new vehicle on taxpayers.

“And I am really hurting because, Marlon, sitting where he is and he getting somebody leaking information to him, should really be more careful,” the diplomat  

Huggins said that the consulate then decided to lease a 2015 Kia Sorento.

“I think the value on the Kia was just over 30,000,” he said, adding that the lease agreement included the monthly charge and the number of miles that the vehicle is expected to cover per year.

“And they give you the buyout value… the residual value that’s left after the lease. They do not offer you any option to say buy or not buy. It’s open to you if you want to buy,” Huggins said.

Consul General Fitz Huggins. (iWN file photo)

Huggins said he is “not one of them consul general, I am not one of those people” who sit in his office and wait for opportunity.

“I like to go out and create opportunities. So I do a lot of driving, I do a lot of commuting,” he said, adding that in an effort to save Kingstown money, he would drive from Toronto to Montreal (541km/336 miles) or Ottawa (404km/251 miles), rather than fly.

Therefore, when he returned the vehicle at the expiration of the lease last December, it had travelled some 25,000 miles in excess of the lease figure, Huggins said.

“And in the lease, it tells you, you have to pay 16 cents per mile over the contracted amount,” he said,

“The government, taxpayers would have had to pay over $4,500 because of the over miles. Taxpayers, you know,” Huggins emphasised, adding that the leasing company would also retain the vehicle.  

“Now, faced with that, I have to make a decision. Do I give back a vehicle and take taxpayer’s money and pay $4,500 extra or do I buy the vehicle out of my pocket to save the taxpayers $5,500. Those are decisions you have to make as managers,” the diplomat said.  

He said that the selling price of the vehicle was $3,650 plus tax.

“I pay that money out of my pocket to save the government $4,500. I didn’t have to do that.  I could have returned the vehicle, give back the company the vehicle, plus pay for the over miles.”

The host of the programme, Dwight “Bing” Joseph, told Huggins that Bute was suggesting that instead of Huggins purchasing the vehicle and it becoming his personal property, the state should have bought it for public use.   

Huggins, however, said that government has a policy or not buying vehicles or property for overseas diplomatic posts.

“And the government has a wider policy that they are not going to buy used vehicles,” he said.

Huggins added:

“So to make that assertion is really stupid, right? It really is a red herring because Marlon know, apparently felt caught his pants down, and he’s trying to backtrack and so on and try to justify the foolishness he wrote. And he’s making some foolish suggestion. It’s stupid.”

He said he could not see Kingstown rescinding its policy, and especially to buy a second hand used vehicle.

In August 2017, the Government of SVG purchased eight second-hand school buses, which it then leased out to private operators.

Canada-based Vincentian businessman and activist, Marlon Bute. (Photo: Facebook)

Huggins said Bute had been “caught with his pants down and I’m going to refer his comments to a lawyer for an opinion on how we go forward.

“This guy has to stop it. You can’t be sitting in front of a computer and terrorising people. It has to stop. Government didn’t own the vehicle. It’s a lease. You return it after you finish the contractual period,” the diplomat further said.

He said he does not believe in bling, adding that his vehicle in St. Vincent is a 1995 Isuzu Rodeo.

“I didn’t need this vehicle. So for a man to suggest I did something improper–

… I did something improper to save the government money and buy a vehicle and send it home at my expense?”

Huggins said he would be in St. Vincent from Feb. 16 to 23, adding, “So I’m not afraid to go home and claim what is mine, rightfully. I paid for it.”

But Joseph told the diplomat that Bute was messaging him saying that what Huggins was saying “is pure BS”.

Huggins said:

“I mean, well, he may have to prove his BS though. Whatever he thinks he’s right about, He may have to prove it in court. That’s all I could say to Marlon. You’ll have a chance to prove it, Marlon. You have a chance to prove it. I’ll give you that opportunity if the review leads me in that direction.

Huggins said he was upset that the issue was the topic of “prime time radio talk”.

“… but the fact that we’re discussing it and my integrity is in question — now don’t forget, you know, and more we talk and discuss it, is bigger the damage eh. So I’m happy that we’re talking and discussing.

“I will not be intimidated by the likes of Marlon Bute or whoever think I am just this easy pushover.”

But in a call to the station after Huggins, Bute maintained that taxpayers (the public) rather than Huggins should have benefitted from the purchase of the vehicle.

“Where it gets sticky is that that government would have paid thousands of dollars over the years and then the lease buyout, being a $3,600 fee and the person in whose name it was and who was driving the vehicle, get the vehicle for that chicken feed amount,” Bute said.
He suggested that Kingstown could have purchased the vehicle for use by the police or hospital.

“So Fitz could come with a zillion lawyers. Listen, this is Canada. I made a comment and there’s nothing in it that would be successful. Anybody could sue. I could sue the whole world, but whether it would be successful is what is at issue here. All I have said this morning and before have been substantiated. They are facts,” Bute said.

He said he had done his research.

“The taxpayers, your dollars paid for that vehicle over the years. That’s why it became so cheap at the end — $3,600. Therefore, it is only right that you, Bing Joseph, should have a good Kia, well maintained, driving up in Calliaqua doing police duties, okay, or the hospital dropping home workers and so on from time to time,” Bute said.

33 replies on “SVG diplomat in vehicle purchase scandal”

  1. In my opinion the Diplomat saw a opportunity to own a nice vehicle for cheap and he took it. Nothing unethical or scandalous about that. The Government is who should decide whether to take the deal that Huggins took. The Government chose not to. On the other hand bringing the story to light is like trying to open the Government’s eyes for the future. It’s a talking point to use up some air time but no need to sue. Politicians and their families on both sides benefit from taxpayers money all the time, nothing new.

  2. This bs argument by grown men is absolutely not call for with the government men on the media scandalizing themselves like this. What is going on with saint vincent and these tete going on with grown men. This iwitness news should shut down. Every time I read everything that is putting out is sure disgusting. The diplomat in canada is right. He could pay the rest of the money when the lease is up for the car. Why should there be a controversy concerning his action. You all have to wake up and act like grown men and stop selling you all dirty wares out there and act like professional men.

  3. I believe this vehicle is built to drive on the righthand side of the road, SVG drive on the left. This vehicle would not be owned by any ministry in SVG and neither by the police or any other service.

    What it proves is that Huggins is a bit of an idiot to actually buy it, because when he wants to sell it in SVG no one will buy it from him unless he almost gives it away. You cannot value this vehicle at the same valuation you would put on the same model but right hand drive in SVG.

      1. Of course you can drive it in SVG, and there is no requirement to put signs on it.

        What I am saying is the value of the vehicle is lower because it is LHD and the insurance is considerably more.

        When you come to sell it few people want it unless its very cheap.

        LHD cars are very dangerous because the driver when overtaking has to pull right across the road to see if it is clear to overtake.

        There are a couple of other things to consider. As a diplomat living abroad he pays no import duty on the car in SVG, which is about 160% on cost.

        I see nothing wrong in him buying the car as long as the government were offered it first and did not want it.

        Otherwise it would be a very different situation.

        Was it offered to the government, did the ministry of finance approve of him buying it and gaining a pecuniary advantage?

        Ralph, do you need to pass a hurried law to make the transaction legal? After all he is your buddy.

  4. It looks like Huggins is right here, although it was right for Bute to bring the matter to public attention. This issue also brings to light how the government of SVG spends too much money. The government encourages diplomats to spend while our roads and schools are falling apart. Huggins at least tried to be more frugal than most of the rest of the top bosses in our government. Look at our Prime Minister! He spends far beyond what he should spend given our stressed economy.

  5. If Mr Huggins used the tax payers money to pay for the vehicle then that would be a completely different thing. The article says he paid out of pocket. I see no foul here !!
    Mr Bute, get a real job and bothering hard working government officials !!

  6. Vincy Accountant says:

    As a person who is on the habit of leasing vehicles, there is team referred to as the Bargain Purchase Option (BPO). Please note the BPO in most cases represent the residual value of the vehicle at the end of the lease term.

    Given that the lessor would have already recovered his principal and interest from the said vehicle, the BPO in most cases represent a benefit to the lessee that would not be available to anyone else that is a stranger to the transaction. It is interesting to note that the BPO does not reflect the Fair Market Value of the vehicle. Again in most cases. he BPO would be less than that the fair Market Value of the Vehicle.

    A benefit can therefore be derived by the lessee if he/she purchased the vehicle at a price that is equivalent to the BPO.This is a neutral position that I am taking, as dictate by leasing policies. However, in order to make a decision whether Fitz benefited materially and financially from the transaction, one has to examine the lease agreement.

  7. I take no position on the lease kia, however, as a Torontian I had the privilege to interact with Fitz and have known him to be hard working , humble and honest individual.

  8. I read the above and noted that I had the privilege to interact with Fitz and have known him to be hard working, honest and a humble individual.

  9. I don’t understand Mr Huggins he should shut his darme stupid mouth. What the man is saying make sense.And again if he sends home the vehicle.How he save govegove money? Two don’t the government have to lease a nother new vehicle for him.

  10. So what about the old cars Fitz picked up in Canada and sent down here? How come those could come and this cannot? Is this KIA not in better condition to send? I agree with Marlon, the country should have the benefit. Fitz may not have done anything wrong but taking Marlon’s option would have certainly made Fitz look so much more principled.

    1. I totally agree with you nothing to see in this one but could have been avoided. Maybe it’s an opportunity to review the policy

  11. Sir, your explanation full of dodo. Vampire sucking the Nation Blood.

    Question.

    Did the Government. Give you permission to purchase the Vehicle as a private owner?

    Is the Government going to lease A New Vehicle for your mission ?

    Are you going to use the Vehicle that you purchase and Bill the Government?

    Can you please clear the Air.

  12. One must take in consideration that the vehicle is 5 years old and has depreciated. Therefore, we must overcome our petty envious ‘crab in the barrel’ attitude to each other and thing what is best for us AS A PEOPLE. Mr. Huggins as the SVG Consul General (CG) in Toronto is an employee of the government and his mandate has a high demand for transportation.
    The vehicle lease has expired with over-mileage cost$ which must be paid by the leaser as per standard leasing contracts.
    In addition to paying the excess mileage cost$; the leaser (SVG Govt.) has the option to give back the vehicle or a buy-out option.
    Would Marlon and the ‘Consulate officer squealer’ be happier had our SVG Govt paid the $4,500.00 and gave back the vehicle to the Canadian leasing company; and a total stranger had walked in and buy the vehicle for $5,500.00?
    Mr. Huggins as the manager made a wise decision that which the majority of us if in CG’s position would have done also and no exception to Marlon.

    What concerns me nonetheless; is the leakage of information from the Consulate office.

  13. If what am reading here is correct in terms of what Huggins is saying. I will conclude that Marlon Bute is a mischief maker and will stop at nothing to make the government and persons closely affiliated look bad. Now if you enter into a lease where a vehicle is concerned, most of the time you lease that vehicle to own it and pay a monthly lease. This particular lease had a deadline to it, meaning after some years you have to return that vehicle in line with the least agreement. At the time of lease the vehicle surely have a value and at the time of return it will surely have a depreciated value. According to what am reading at the time of return of this vehicle one of the agreements were not in line with the terms, the mileage had surpassed what it was supposed to be, in effect it would have cost the government $4, 500 extra but the value of the vehicle was under $4000,. I therefore wonder who in their right mind would have paid that $4,500 instead of buying the vehicle for $3,600. Huggins didn’t have to buy the vehicle, he could have used tax payers money to pay for the extra miles and then someone else could have buy the vehicle, but in my opinion Huggins used wisdom in the circumstances. Remember the dealer is under no obligation to sell the vehicle to government offer the lease had expired.

  14. You should evaluate the vehicle before you start your nonsense. Do you know the mileage. The maintenance records and all pertinent details of the vehicle. Boi you jealous or what? The darn vehicle has poor resale value..I owned one.

  15. I see Bute issue with the vehicle. Taxpayers paid for the largest amount of the vehicle now Huggins is laughing his behind off. If you didn’t want to be scrutinized, you should’ve purchase something else. I see a problem with it.

  16. Okay my Vincy ppls, lk on Facebook immediately under this ‘Iwitness news’ post. This article recorded 267 comments and 69 shares. The reality is that we could have accomplished much more by spending our valuable time promoting positive initiatives instead of advertising for KIA. That is exactly what we have done even with videos included. While all-yo Vincy ppls pull down your own; yo build up other nationalities. THINK‼ That is ‘THE CARB IN THE BARREL’ SYNDROME…………………………………My 2nd BOOK✍RELEASE WILL BE VERY SOON ‘The Echoes of the Soul’ lets make it viral like you did for this KIA depreciated vehicle lease.

  17. Crooked scheme cooked up by evil men. failing the smell test. Now, who is going to do something about it? Since when does the government need an employee to invest his own cash money to save tax[ayers money? I’m quite sure that for all the expenses the government incur they get a percentage in tax returns for each instance.
    1) Employee X rides a leased house, all expense paid.
    2) X thinks ‘if I were collecting the lease money instead of another company’.
    3) X buys the horse and takes over the lease
    Now he collects and he acquired property.
    We live in the shadow of the greatest democracy on earth yet we don’t assimilate. We just now trying to invent alternatives to reason.

  18. Monty Providence says:

    “Crab in a barrel mentality” What is wrong with exercising the option of purchasing a vehicle at the end of a lease? It’s the smart thing to do.
    This is no scandal, it’s jealousy and malicious.

  19. As a Vince Torontonian, I had the opportunity to know Fitz though the position that he holds and I can say Fitz brings value for money not only for the diaspora but to at Vincent as a whole. I know I had a problem back home and ask him for assistance and right away he assisted me. I would say with all the work he has done here and back home l, whether it be used vehicles for the government, he is by far one of the best we have ever had in Toronto. The explanation that was given is clear and concise. I see no wrong doing on Fitz part.

  20. The fact remains that he bought a 5/6 year old vehicle for his personal use for $3650. That won’t happen for none of us. It is wrong. The gov’t needs to change its policy so such suggested corrupt actions can’t be committed. And if you have any integrity and humility, you won’t do that. That kind of vehicle cannot be purchased for that price. Too much selfishness and greed do not equate to love of country and less burden on taxpayers. We need more people to highlight these covert occurrences so that we can take better decisions.

  21. “in an effort to save Kingstown money, he would drive from Toronto to Montreal (541km/336 miles) or Ottawa (404km/251 miles), rather than fly.”

    “The government, taxpayers would have had to pay over $4,500 because of the over miles. “

    What don’t make sense to me is we saved money on flights but rack it up in mileage

  22. Why didn’t the government buy the vehicle when the lease, was up ?
    Now he buy it the government has to lease another 1 for him to drive again, or is he doing to charge them to use it.
    They should if paid the same 3600$ and kept it for a few more years, but they ding care. The money not coming out if their pockets

  23. Pleasantly surprised at the plethora of comments that made sense here void of politics and filled with logic!

  24. Toronto Tax Lawyer says:

    I read all the comments on the purchased of the Kia and concluded that some of the comments for example the one from Monty Providence are influenced by the writer’s association with the person, and therefore the opinion is highly partial.

    As a neutral person, the Government is the one to be blamed for passing on a personal benefit to Mr Huggins by the act of not excusing the buy out offer. The government could have exercised the off and the sell the vehicle for its fair market value. They were therefore negligent in this regard for passing a personal benefit to Mr Huggins.

    Mr. Huggins did nothing wrong all he has to do is to declare a personal benefit when he files his tax returns for the year in which he received the benefit .The benefit will be difference between the FMV (fair Market value ) of the Kia and the buy out value.

    In addition, Mr Huggins doesn’t have an action against Mr Bute since he reported a matter which was a factual situation. As a tax lawyer, I concluded by saying that the case warrants no action.

  25. If Mr Huggins did not benefit from the offer , then the lessor would have benefited, given that the government failed to take up the offer. As stated by one of the commentary, he should declared the benefit in the year received as the difference between the FMV and the Buy out value in the year that it was received.

  26. Some of the comments are so so hilarious they can qualify for first year jokes in a comedy school, or perhaps examples of faulty logic in first year law-school class.
    1. Crabs in a barrel mentality…. The Diplomat is not a crab in a barrel, more like a big fish in a pond of minnows because of what he delivered to the ULP. The Government is in eternal debt to Mr. H. because he essentially delivered East St. George to the PM in waiting.No small fish like Mr. Bute can “bring him down”. Furthermore, are you not admitting that Mr. Huggins got a benefit at the hands of the taxpayers if you go for the crabs in a barrel scenario since you are saying that the other crabs do not want him to “get ahead”??.

    2. Then the first person said that Mr. H. saw an opportunity to get a vehicle cheaply and took it. He also said that people on both sides get benefits like this from Government all the time, then went on to say “there is nothing unethical about this”. What???

    3. A number of persons provide cases where Mr. H. provided them with good customer service. Isn’t that his mandate? So because of this he can do nothing wrong?

    4. I know that many of us are ever so proud of the “whistleblower” in the Trump case. So why is EG so adamant that the so called leaker should be exposed. Is she suggesting that leaking of egregious behaviour should be chastised?

    Thanks Mr. Tax Lawyer for putting things in proper perspective.

  27. I am told by my son who owns a substantive company how they deal with end of lease vehicles. If the final payment is $3000 the vehicle will be offered to the staff within the company along with bids also from two preselected dealers. Whoever make the highest bid will get the vehicle. The company pays the lease end payment and then resells the car to the bidder. The company then take the profit difference between what they paid to the lease company and what was paid by the bidder.

    Does anyone know if the other staff in the office had opportunity to bid on buying the vehicle, or was this a one man deal?

    I understand that Ralph Gonsalves has now said it was ok for Mr Huggins to buy the vehicle, which I expected to happen. But it does not make wrong right, if this was wrong in the first place. It means that Huggins got an earner and Gonsalves approved it whilst denying all the other staff such an opportunity.

  28. Folks, if there’s nothing wrong with the transaction, then which speak of a leak? Leaks only expose things that are not above board. The dialog will give folks more information about these kinda transactions. Anthony has many questions that should be examined closely and answered to get some clarification on the issue. Folks stop attacking the messenger and concentrate on the issue.

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