Feb 29, 2020 News
– given permission to take movable property
A pilot who built a private hangar at the Cheddi Jagan International Airport (CJIA) but is now in jail in the United States, has lost a $100M lawsuit against the entity.
Khamraj Lall had sued the airport back in 2016 after his licence to use the hangar was not renewed. He wanted court orders that would compel the airport to allow him continue use of the hangar so that he could have recovered $600M he had sunk into the construction.
CJIA was defended in the matter by Andrew Pollard, SC, and Gina Macedo-Singh, Esq., of Hughes, Fields & Stoby. Lall was represented by C.V. Satram of Satram & Satram.
In the High Court, Justice Diana Insanally found that Lall had committed the illegality of constructing the hangar without first obtaining building permission from the Central Housing and Planning Authority (CH&PA), which was itself a breach of the licence.
It was also found that there were no equitable considerations in land law in Guyana, and accordingly, the orders the Plaintiff was seeking – claiming that CJIA had encouraged him to make the expenditure and was therefore equitably obliged to renew the licence until he had recouped his investment – could not be granted.
Lall, who is in a US jail serving a 13-year sentence for money laundering and other charges, is the owner of the Exec Jet Club, which operated a private jet charter service at the CJIA.
In 2012, Lall was authorised by the Government of Guyana to construct a hangar at the airport. He signed a licence agreement with the CJIA where he was allowed the use and occupation of a plot of land for a term of three years.
Lall built the hangar and commenced air charter operations between Guyana and several foreign countries.
In November of 2014, Lall was arrested in Puerto Rico on allegations of money-laundering (US$600,000). He pleaded guilty. The following year, he was arrested in New Jersey on charges of trafficking in narcotics between Guyana and the U.S.A.
In the course of the trial, it emerged that Lall had used his private jet for trafficking in narcotics, and operated these flights from the hangar at Timehri, according to court documents in the lawsuit.
The plaintiff’s licence expired in October 2015, with CJIA refusing to renew it. This led to the claim by Lall.
The judge ruled that CJIA was a statutory corporation, and as such was a separate legal entity, independent of the Government of Guyana. She found that although Lall had not directly proven that the Government did authorise him to carry out his Exec Jet project and to expend the $600M he claimed he did, even if it had, any agreement would have been between the plaintiff and the Government.
As such, this could not automatically be binding on CJIA.
The judge found no evidence that CJIA had agreed to either the project or the expenditure, or had done anything other than authorise the plaintiff to use the land for the three-year term.
In fact, the court found that there was no provision in the licence for any automatic renewal, and Lall failed to prove he was entitled to this.
She dismissed the plaintiff’s claim, and ordered him to pay costs of $100,000 to the CJIA.
The good news for Lall was that the court allowed him to collect all or any chattels/movable property he had stored at the hangar when the licence had expired.
Lall, who was based in New Jersey, was sentenced late last year for trafficking hundreds of kilograms of cocaine into New Jersey and New York, and then laundering over US$10.2 million in cash drug proceeds.
Lall, 52, of Ringwood, New Jersey, was found guilty previously by a federal jury in Trenton, of all eight counts of a superseding indictment, including counts charging him with conspiracy to distribute cocaine, money laundering, structuring monetary instruments, and conspiracy to commit money laundering and structuring.
According to documents filed in the case and the evidence at trial: From April 2011 through November 2014, Lall, a private pilot, smuggled hundreds of kilograms of cocaine from Guyana to New Jersey and New York on his privately-owned jet aircraft and then laundered the proceeds.
Lall used the proceeds of his cocaine empire to purchase jet planes, houses, and cars. He also paid over US$2M in cash stuffed into suitcases to a Florida contractor to build an airplane hangar in Guyana.
Over a 3-½ year period, Lall also made (or had others make) 1,287 cash deposits totaling approximately US$7.5M into more than 20 different bank accounts in New Jersey and New York, much of it in $20 bills.
In order to avoid detection and circumvent bank reporting laws, all 1,287 deposits were for amounts less than $10,000.
In November 2014, Lall was flying one of his jets from the U.S. to Guyana and stopped in Puerto Rico to refuel. An outbound search of the plane uncovered $470,000 in cash stuffed into a suitcase hidden in the tail of the plane, and another $150,000 in cash hidden under a seat.
In addition to the prison term, Lall was sentenced to five years of supervised release. The Court previously ordered Lall to forfeit his interest in two jets, two airplane hangars, multiple properties, a Lexus SUV, among other property traceable to his crimes. The Court also entered a money judgment against Lall for US$9.3M.
The hangar at Timehri was seized by Government because of non-payment of the lease.
Lall has lost his flying and other licences.
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