Captain Khamraj ‘Kem’ Lall, a Guyana-born pilot, set to appear in a Puerto Rico court tomorrow after a US
Grand Jury returned an indictment last week for smuggling a large amount of cash on his jet, has pleaded not guilty.
Captain Khamraj ‘Kem’ Lall has opted not to appear for the arraignment by signing a “Waiver of Presence” and pleading not guilty, according to court documents filed yesterday.
US Magistrate, Judge Camille L. Velez-Rive, approved the waiver and not guilty plea and transferred the matter to another judge for scheduling.
Lall, who owns Kaylee’s gas station at Coverden, East Bank Demerara as well as a limousine service, was arrested by Puerto Rican security officials on November 22, last, after his jet landed on that US territory for fuel. The pilot was on his way to Guyana. He has a hangar at the Cheddi Jagan International Airport and has flown President Donald Ramotar on occasions on the private jet.
In major developments last week, it was indicated that Prosecutors will likely target assets that belong to the businessman, in and out of the United States and even those in Guyana.
Originally charged with bulk cash smuggling after US$620,000 was found in his jet, 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. Lall agreed to the forfeiture.
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, without declaring it and in breach of laws.
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.”
On November 22, last, 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.
During a mandatory 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. 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 accepted responsibility for the cash. He later moved to restrict some of the details contained in the court documents claiming 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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