In a major development in the case involving Guyanese pilot, Khamraj Lall, US Prosecutors are likely to target
assets that belong to the businessman in and out of the United States, even those in Guyana.
According to court documents filed last week, a Grand Jury has returned indictments against Lall, who operates a private commercial jet service between the US and the Cheddi Jagan International Airport. He is to appear in court on Wednesday to answer the indictments.
Originally charged with bulk cash smuggling after Puerto Rican security officials found over US$620,000 in his jet last month, Lall was placed on US$100,000 bail. The Grand Jury decided that he will additionally see forfeiture of the cash and his properties related to offence.
According to the indictments filed in the United States District Court of Puerto Rico, Lall knowingly attempted to transfer more than the allowed US$10,000 from Puerto Rico, one of its territories, in violation of its laws.
Lall agreed to have the properties forfeited. It will involve the cash and in all likelihood the jet.
But the US Prosecutors are also leaving the door open for all of Lall’s assets to be seized if it is proven that they are linked to the bulk cash smuggling.
“…the defendant shall, upon conviction of each such offense alleged in Count One, forfeit to the United States all property, real and personal, involved in the offence, and all property traceable to such property, wherever located and in whatever name held, which property includes, but is not limited to, US currency in the total amount of US$620,588.”
Prosecutors went further. Even if the property cannot be located; has been transferred or sold to or deposited with a third person; has been placed beyond the jurisdiction of the court; substantially diminished in value or mixed with other property, it will not stop the US from seeking “forfeiture of any other property of said defendant’s up to the value of the above property.”
On November 22, Lall was arrested after a jet he owns stopped for fuel at the Luis Munoz Marin International Airport, Puerto Rico.
According to Special Agent DaRika Davis, who is attached to Homeland Security Investigations of the United States Homeland Security, Lall and two other individuals arrived at the Luis Munoz Marin International Airport on a private aircraft bearing tail number N822QL.
Lall was the co-pilot, while the other two individuals were his father and the pilot of the aircraft. They were en route to Guyana.
The officers informed them that an outbound inspection of the aircraft was necessary. Lall and his father declared US$5000, while the pilot US$60.
During the search, the agents unearthed some maintenance discrepancies and grounded the aircraft until the issues could be resolved.
The following morning, the issues were resolved, and Lall informed the US Customs Agents so that they could resume their outbound inspection of the aircraft. Employing the use of a sniffer dog, the US agents were alerted to a bundle of currency wrapped in plastic bags and a blanket was found under the exit row seat.
When approached, the Guyanese businessman, who reportedly owns Kaylee’s Service Station at Coverden, East Bank Demerara, voluntarily stated that the money found belonged to him, and that it was approximately US$150,000. His explanation was that the money represented proceeds from his business, and which he had forgotten was there. The agents did not buy his explanation.
When they continued their search, they stumbled upon a black suitcase inside a compartment next to the engines. The suitcase was found to contain several black garbage bags containing bundles of currency totaling approximately US$470,000.
Lall also accepted responsibility and ownership of the other monies found. He informed the agents that his father and the aircraft’s pilot had nothing to do with the cash, and that all the money belonged to him.
The Guyanese businessman and aircraft pilot migrated to the United States of America 30 years ago.
Through his lawyer, Lall was successfully granted a request to restrict access by the public to several documents to be used in his court matter.
In his petition filed in the Puerto Rico, US District Court, Lall claimed that he was “filing the motion with the requested level of restriction because it is necessary to protect the confidentiality of the information detailed in the document and exhibits.”
Two weeks ago, the Puerto Rican court ordered the jet owner to surrender all his pilot licences. He was restricted to travel between New Jersey in the United States and Puerto Rico only for purposes pertaining to his court hearing.
The pilot was also allowed to continue working as Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of his aviation company, but only in an administrative capacity, and the duties must be performed from his residence.
Local aviation authorities have confirmed that Lall’s local operation is currently on pause given his court matter. They continue to say that all the pilot’s local operations were above board and all his international papers were in order.
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