… pilot has private hangar at CJIA
The Guyanese pilot who was recently detained in Puerto Rico for failing to declare
thousands of United States dollars stashed in different sections of his private jet has a private hangar at the Cheddi Jagan International Airport (CJIA).
He is said to have transported Head of State Donald Ramotar on a few state missions.
Khamraj Lall was detained last Saturday in the Spanish-speaking territory which is an annex of the United States. US Customs and Border Protection agents had carried out a routine search of the executive craft when sums totalling US$620,000 were found hidden under seats and near the plane’s engine.
Lall was the co-pilot on the flight. He was travelling with his father and the plane’s pilot when he took sole responsibility for the hidden cash. The three occupants declared certain sums of money, far less than what was found by the customs agents.
Lall was permitted to build a private hangar at the country’s largest airport to conduct executive flight services and medical evacuation (Medivac). He had also piloted President Donald Ramotar on official state trips to Brazil and Puerto Rico.
Yesterday, Cabinet Secretary Dr. Roger Luncheon said that he was not privy to information about how much those trips cost the Guyana Government. However, he directed reporters to the relevant agency heads for the clarification.
Dr. Luncheon said that he suspects that state funds might not have been involved in the trips, but will make the necessary checks from his records to confirm the information. Luncheon also used the opportunity to touch on the significance of getting CFATF compliant legislation passed in the country to tackle money laundering.
Luncheon directed all questions on the pilot and his operation to the relevant aviation agencies. CJIA’S Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Ramesh Ghir told Kaieteur News that indeed permission was granted for Lall to construct a private hangar at the CJIA compound. He said that the man is to operate medical evacuations and provide executive flight services.
The publication was told that the pilot was given special privileges and was not mandated to go through standard security procedures. Ghir dismissed this information and declared that all persons are required to observe and withstand the mandatory immigration, customs and other security checks. He said flights are also regularly checked and the necessary routines followed.
Ghir explained further that the hangar is currently incomplete and is not necessarily operational. The furnishings and much interior work are still to be completed, he said. It was confirmed that the two private jets owned by Lall are parked at the hangar when in Guyana.
Ghir said that Lall’s bust comes as a shock to the country’s civil aviation section.
Public Works Minister Robeson Benn also confirmed that Lall was given permission to build his hangar. He too refuted claims that the pilot could have foregone security checks and had unmonitored access to his facility.
Benn told the paper that in fact, apart from the executive hangar which is still under construction, the facility will also accommodate customs, immigration and other security stations so that the necessary checks would be made for the private persons and VIPs expected to use his service.
It is expected that this private facility, on completion, will contain an executive lounge, arrival and departure areas and customs, immigration stations among other common features of an airport.
However the entrance to Lall’s hangar is some distance away from that of CJIA arrival and departure lounges. The area is very much secluded and is accessed by another road which takes one to the southern end of the airport tarmac. To access the hangar, instead of turning left on public road leading to the airport, one has to turn right onto “Khali Road” and drive to the facility which has one private security booth ahead of the main building.
No airport security is visible there. It has been stated by airport staff that given the hangar’s location persons could access the facility day or night without anyone ever knowing. They said, “While it (hangar) is at the (CJIA) airport, you cannot see it or access it from the main building.”
Kaieteur News is still to ascertain whether former President Bharrat Jagdeo would have at any time been a passenger on the executive luxury carrier. Lall is expected to attend a bail hearing in Puerto Rico next week.
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