– found out about private hangar at CJIA “unofficially”
At the time the pilot caught with hundreds of thousands of US dollars stashed in his private
jet would have received clearance to establish his aviation business here in Guyana; there was not a functional Guyana Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) Board of Directors.
In fact, the sitting aviation Board, which was commissioned in early August of last year, is not aware of any information pertaining to businessman, Khamraj Lall’s aviation operation, which has been identified as Exec Jet Club. In light of recent developments which said that the Guyanese businessman was detained in Puerto Rico last Saturday for failing to report some US$620,000 hidden in various sections of the private jet he was co-piloting, the GCAA Board will be requesting a meeting with GCAA’s Director General Zulfikar Mohamed for an update from the civil aviation agency in relation to Lall’s operation.
Mohamed is expected back in the country today and a special meeting will be requested, especially since it was related that Lall has a private hangar in a secluded area of the Cheddi Jagan International Airport (CJIA) Timehri.
When Kaieteur News made contact with Chairman of the GCAA, Hugh Denbow, he related that the pilot obtained his operation clearance prior to the current Board of Directors’ establishment. The Chairman stated that currently, they have no information about Lall’s operation.
It was stated further, that when information was sought, it was recognized that the GCAA only became aware of the private hangar by default, and while the agency is an oversight body for the state airport -which has to recognize ICAO regulations – they were never officially informed that the man was constructing a hangar. It is understood that a GCAA aerodrome inspector was conducting duties at CJIA when he noticed the structure and incorporated its existence in his final report. This report was allegedly submitted a short while after construction on the hangar had commenced.
It was also mentioned that Lall is a US-licenced pilot and his jet is also registered in that country. However, it has been confirmed by CJIA’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Ramesh Ghir and Minister of Transport, Robeson Benn, that Lall has permission to operate in Guyana and he was setting to conduct private and medical flights in Guyana. Two private jets owned by Lall are also based here in Guyana.
However, the GCAA Board chairman is unaware as to whether Lall received local clearance for commercial activities. “This means he could have only operated in his personal capacity; transporting friends and family.”
It was confirmed that Head of State Donald Ramotar would have travelled a few times on board the private craft on official state business. The media was promised a report by Cabinet Secretary Roger Luncheon at Wednesday’s press conference, on whether state funds would have paid for the President’s trip on board the luxury jetliner.
Denbow explained also, that the country where an aircraft is registered usually conducts oversight of the craft, however, in a case where a foreign-registered aircraft is based in another country, that country can request permission, or the country of registration will give permission to the base country to oversee the airplane. However, the GCAA Chairman could not say whether Guyana has oversight permission from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) given that the plane is usually based in Guyana.
It was explained to Kaieteur News that when an applicant applies to perform any operation at the CJIA, it is the GCAA management that oversees this process. The application is then “supposed” to go to the GCAA Board for consideration, but that is not always the case, Denbow pointed out. He said that the Transport Minister would then give his input at the government level.
The Alliance for Change (AFC) at their party briefing yesterday emphasized that they too have received unfavourable information pertaining to the operations of Exec Jet Club. Member of Parliament Cathy Hughes explained that the party is demanding an investigation into Lall’s operations at the airport. She claimed that, “well placed sources at CJIA disclosed that the airport’s senior management have adopted a hands-off position when it comes to Exec Jet club, and security personnel have been instructed not to stop and search vehicles entering or leaving the Jet Club hangar.”
She said the party received information that entrances to the hangar area are unmanned by airport authorities, while staffers have complained about the free movement of Jet Club personnel around the airport with the almost non-existent security checks of the aircraft and its passengers.
She reported that outside of this, some $700,000 of the airport’s petty cash has gone missing and management seems to be turning a blind eye. AFC said they will therefore write the Auditor General to conduct an investigation into the total operation of CJIA.
Lall owns a limousine service and a gas station among other businesses. After the first bag of cash was found, Lall told US authorities that he had forgotten the hidden cash – which he claimed was proceeds from his business – was in the plane. When the remainder of the money was found, he took full responsibility and excluded his father and pilot who were travelling at the time.
The jet was destined for Guyana and had made a fuel stop in Puerto Rico. Lall is expected to attend a bail hearing in that country next week. Information is still not clear as to how Lall would have attained approval for his aviation operation here.
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