Guyana’s Minister of Transport, Robeson Benn has dismissed concerns that the Government of Guyana may be tainted because of the legal problems facing the Exec Jet Company which operated private jet service from Guyana.
The owner of Exec Jet, Guyanese pilot Khamraj Lall is facing money smuggling charges in Puerto Rico after US$620,000 was found stashed in garbage bag on the private jet during a stop in Puerto Rico for refueling while on its way to Guyana.
Benn told reporters on Tuesday that the government cannot take the blame for the alleged wrongdoing of the owner of the company. He said the government facilitates investment.
President Ramotar has used the services of the private jet on at least three occasions on official state business. Worry has been expressed about the security at the airport surrounding the company after reports surfaced that the jet bypassed Customs checks during its visits to Guyana.
The company’s services have been halted as a result of the criminal case against its owner. The Guyana Civil Aviation intends to review the operations of the company in Guyana.
At a Tuesday afternoon press briefing, Minister Benn said the Exec Jet Company made 18 flights to Guyana for the year and all security and customs checks were made of the aircraft according to Airport records.
He could not provide the names of the passengers who utilized the services on those 18 flights, but he confirmed that the company had flown specialists into Guyana to assist with the construction of its hangar at the Cheddi Jagan Airport.
“The confirmation has been given again that the standard operating procedures were followed in every instance for all of Executive Jet club flights”, Benn said.
According to the Minister, instructions have never been given to the staff of the airport or any of the agencies operating at the airport for there to be a waiver of the airport security clearances or procedures for the Executive Jet Club staff or its operations. He said security checks were always made in the restricted areas.
However, when pressed by News Source about reports from Customs Officers that they were asked on some occasions to extend VIP courtesies to the airline and its staff and passengers, Benn said he is not in receipt of such information but would probe those reports,
News Source understands that on more than one occasions, upon its arrival in Guyana, the pilot of the aircraft was met by Duty Officers of the Airport and ushered through the VIP Lounge and extended immigration and customs courtesies. Benn said the only time he knows officials and passengers of the private jet service were able to access the VIP lounge was during a promotional video shoot.
In a joint statement, the Guyana Civil Aviation Authority and the Cheddi Jagan International Airport sought to clarify several issues surrounding the private jet service and the construction of hangar at the airport.
According to the two agencies, in 2010, the company expressed an interest in developing a hangar for its aircraft service. Permission for that service was granted in 2011 by the government. The GCAA also confirmed that the company was authorized to conduct on demand flights for compensation by the Federal Aviation Administration of the United States.
“All of the flights operated into and of Guyana by Exec Jet are legal and the company is duty authorized to conduct such flights by competent aeronautical authorities”, the release added.
The release added that all of the company’s flights would have had to adhere to all of the established standard operating procedures for all flights into and out of the airport.
Filed: 2nd December, 2014