Dec 04, 2012 News
– CEO remains in hiding from FBI
Refunds to passengers have not been an easy ride for the embattled air charter, EZjet, as several angry persons converged at the Brickdam offices yesterday for their monies.
Many of them went away and were told to return today. Some of them were issued with cheques dated December 12.
This is even as news came that passengers in New York are not hearing much from staffers there about their refunds.
EZjet’s founder, Sonny Ramdeo, who is based in the US, has not been returning calls and is only answering emails, an official of the New York office told Kaieteur News last evening.
It was disclosed last month that the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) was investigating Ramdeo.
It is believed that EZjet owes in excess of 3,000 passengers from the Guyana end which translates to over US$2M ($400M).
It is unclear how many persons in New York are owed but an official there said that cheques were written but held after it was discovered that EZjet had no money in its account. It is believed that passengers are owed around US$2.5M ($500M) there.
Several passengers, attracted to the low prices of EZjet, had purchased return tickets at low prices of between US$700 and US$800 early for events including the popular Trinidad carnival.
“We don’t know what is going on. The office here closed and nobody talking. The Guyana Government has money and we may have to ask them to pay us,” one passenger told Kaieteur News.
However, it is unlikely that Government would release the US$200,000 it is holding as security for EZjet, to help passengers.
Public Works Minister, Robeson Benn, made this clear yesterday. He said that he was aware that some payments were made by way of cheques dated December 12. According to the Minister, the government is still to pronounce on the future of the charter company which had been welcomed by Guyanese for its low fares.
Yesterday also, calls and emails to EZjet’s local manager, Rosalinda Rasul, went unanswered.
Scores of passengers were left stranded early last month as the US Department of Transportation (DOT), suspended EZjet’s operations after US-based Swift Air which owns several aircrafts, complained that the company owed them. Guyana and Canada also took similar actions, effectively leaving hundreds of passengers in the lurch.
Caribbean Airlines and Delta, two airlines operating in Guyana, agreed to help with the stranded passengers and even added additional flights.
Since starting its flights last year December, there have been questions about EZjet; its source of financing and whether its financing structure would have allowed it to survive.
Government and EZjet accused Kaieteur News and Opposition politicians of scaring away passengers. But, the fact is that the Guyana Government had ignored the obvious questions about the airline and, instead of conducting necessary inquiries, had backed the company.
Ramdeo recently resigned after a US healthcare company sued him and EZjet for allegedly stealing over US$5.4M and passing some of the monies through the bank accounts of the airline.
Ramdeo had vowed to defend the charge and to return as CEO.
However, when the United States, Canada and Guyana cancelled his operating licence he re-emerged to take control of EZjet as its Chief Executive Officer.
In late October, Acting CEO Rosalinda Rasul had said that the airline was in a healthy financial position and was not indebted to anyone.
Following the US suspension which effectively grounded all charter flights, EZjet blamed mismanagement and financial hardship for its woes.
EZjet, in its defense, accused Swift Air and another service provider, Dynamic Airways, of abandoning passengers on Wednesday in Trinidad.
Government had said that there may be some 25,000 to 30,000 advance bookings for EZjet for the months of November and December 2012.
AUBREY NORTON FRIGHTEN RENEGOTIATION AND RING-FENCING
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