Guyana government says all flights followed procedures, after private jet seized in Puerto Rico
Georgetown, Guyana — In responding to speculation over the government’s link to the jet operated by Exec Jet Club LLC that was seized by Puerto Rican officials last month, minister of public works Robeson Benn said that all of the charter company’s flights have taken place in accordance with established measures that are applicable in and out of Guyana, and were done with integrity and transparency.
Khamraj Lall, a Guyanese pilot and owner of Exec Jet Club was arrested after it was discovered that US$620,000 in undeclared US currency was stashed in the jet he was operating.
In August 2010, Lall expressed interest in developing a hangar to operate an executive jet service and air ambulance service in Guyana and, in December of the following year, the management of the Cheddi Jagan International Airport (CJIA) received an application for land to construct a hangar to facilitate his flight operations.
Benn told the media that, since Guyana did not have such services, the government thought it was a good opportunity and, after a year of review of the application, a Cabinet paper was presented and, in October 2012, the lease was approved to allow for the construction of the hangar, which to date is not completed.
“Such procedure required that the flights be processed on the international apron and must be cleared by customs, immigrations and CANU (Customs Anti Narcotics Unit) and other law enforcement agencies to confirm that the standard operations procedure were followed… At no time, in terms of the staff of the CJIA or the Civil Aviation Authority or the other security agencies, was any instruction given to the staff to waive the airport procedures with regards to the Exec Club staff egress or ingress at the airport,” Benn noted.
Speaking on the legality of the operations, Benn said that the Guyana Civil Aviation Authority (CCAA) has confirmed that Exec Jet Club LLC is not a club, but rather a limited liability company. The company was never granted a blanket approval to operate in Guyana, rather approval was granted by the GCAA on a per flight basis.
Exec Jet is authorised to conduct on demand, flights for compensation less than 4 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 135 by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The company operates two Westwind 1 Jets under Air Carrier Certificate #R6QA548L, and is authorised to operate in South America among other geographic regions such as Central America and Mexico.
Security has confirmed that checks were carried out at all times with regards to Exec Jet Club’s staff accessing restricted areas at the airport.
The gate, which allows access to the Exec Jet hangar, is not unique to this type of operation. At present, operators such as Laparkan, Amerijet and Rubis (fuel company) have their own gates to their facilities. While these agencies can access their facilities, they cannot access the airside or restricted areas of the airport without the approval of airport security. Because the construction is yet to be completed, the keys to the gates of the Exec Jet Club hangar are with the CJIA Security Department.
There has been a suggestion that Lall and the passengers of Exec Jet Club were allowed usage of the VIP lounge at CJIA. Benn said that was never the case; however in the case of passengers, the president and his security staff on duty used the lounge during three trips to Antigua, St Vincent and Brazil. There were 18 flights for the year.
“In all of those cases, it was much more economical and on time when compared to other services. It was better to use their services to have a direct flight to your destination. It was a saving when that service was used by the president… I want to dispel any foolish notion with respect to those flights by His Excellency and to say that Guyanese persons with the means and the money could have gone to Exec Jet Club and access the services in like manner,” Benn reiterated.
According to local sources, Lall had been allowed a private hangar and his plane was off limits to normal airport security inspections.