Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Court grants plea deal extension to ‘Money Jet’ pilot

Embattled Guyanese pilot, Khamraj Lall, who was arrested after more than US$600,000 was discovered on his private jet during a stopover last November in Puerto Rico, has been granted another month to finalize a plea deal.

According to applications filed in Puerto Rico courts, Lall, who has a limousine service and Kaylee’s Gas Station at Coverden, East Bank Demerara, will have until April 21 to update the judge.

According to court documents filed by Lall’s defense lawyer, Rafael Castro Lang, this week, plea negotiations are still ongoing.

“The defendant is presently obtaining the evidence to establish the legitimate source of the cash seized by the government which has become an issue during plea negotiations. The government has requested a counter offer from defendant which will be made as soon as it notifies the evidence requested by the government.”

Lall, earlier this year, opted out of trial and signaled his intentions for a plea deal.

Lall’s case has generated much attention in Guyana, Puerto Rico and mainland US, because of the amount of cash that he was found with.

In February, the US Government filed applications in the District Court of Puerto Rico to seize the jet which was reportedly used in the illegal transport of the cash.

Assistant United States Attorney, Maritza Gonzalez, said that the forfeiture of the plane is in keeping with the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure.

The plane in question is a 1988 fixed wing, multi-engine Israel aircraft bearing FAA registration N822QL.

It is one of the aircraft that Lall had been using to fly to Guyana. Also to be seized are the related aircraft maintenance log books and other records.

Lall was arrested by airport authorities in Puerto Rico in November after his jet made a stop to refuel, on its way to Guyana.

Stashed in different parts of the plane was more than US$600,000 that prosecutors say was not declared by Lall. He reportedly took responsibility for the cash at the time of arrest. On board were his father and another person.

The pilot had flown President Donald Ramotar on occasions on the private jet. His company, Exec Jet Club, has a private hangar at the Cheddi Jagan International Airport. There were swirling questions over the operations of the hangar and its accessibility.

Government had denied that it granted the company any special privileges and said that the operations were in keeping with regulations. Exec Jet has reportedly also closed its Gainesville, Florida Office because of the troubles.

In addition to charges related to bulk cash smuggling, Lall is in deep trouble with the US authorities who by law can seize properties that are linked to illegal transactions.

As Puerto Rico is a territory of the US, the country’s tax body, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), had stepped into the matter, going after 14 bank accounts, a Lexus car, and two planes, including the jet that Lall used on that fateful flight.

Two weeks after he was arrested in Puerto Rico, US tax authorities, on December 8, filed a civil case in New Jersey. They were able to seize US$442,743.59 from accounts controlled by Lall and his companies. This is in addition to the US$600,000 that was found on the jet in Puerto Rico, and which is subject to seizure too.

Investigators, apparently working on information, started tracking Lall’s deposits to accounts held at Wells Fargo, Citibank and JP Morgan and found startling evidence that between April 2011 and September 2014, the pilot and family members deposited an astounding US$6,324,411.41 (G$1.3B). There were over a thousand transactions.

The IRS believes that a scheme was devised where Lall and others deliberately deposited less than US$10,000 each time in attempts not to trigger suspicion by banks which are mandated to report transactions above that amount. Lall’s wife, Nadinee and mother Joyce, were named in the transactions.

Investigators tracking the money said that Lall and his family had properties in New Jersey, Florida and New York.

The US Government said that it is not yet requesting seizures of properties that the Lalls control in three states but intends to do so, as proceeds of the deposits were used to renovate or pay mortgages.

According to the US Government, when domestic financial institutions, including banks and money service businesses, are involved in a transaction for the payment, receipt, or transfer of United States currency in an amount greater than $10,000, the institution is required to file a currency transaction report (“CTR”) for each cash transaction, such as, by way of example, a deposit, withdrawal, exchange of currency, or other payment or transfer by, through, or to a financial institution.

“Many individuals involved in illegal activities, such as tax evasion, money laundering, and narcotics trafficking, are aware of the reporting requirements and take active steps to cause financial institutions to fail to file CTRs in order to avoid detection of the movement of large amounts of cash.”

The court documents said that Lall and his family and others “structured” their payments deposit below US$10,000.

Lall, who was ordered to relinquish his pilot’s licences, was said to own and operate Exec Jet Club (“EJC”) and Exec Jet Sales (“EJS”), which were operated from a hanger located at Gainesville Regional Airport, Florida.

Joyce Lall, his mother, was said to have controlled Kaylee’s Investments (“Kaylees”) and Shannon Investments (“Shannon”), which appear to be real estate and investment holding companies. These structured funds were used, in part, to purchase and improve the Lalls’ properties, aircraft, and Lexus.

Story and photos:

Pilot ready to provide source of $620K

Khamraj Lall, the pilot caught with $620k in his private jet while flying through Puerto Rico en route to Guyana, says he is willing to provide evidence of where the funds came from as part of a plea deal.

According to court filings from Monday asking for another 30 days to finalize plea negotiations, his lawyer Rafael Castro Lang states:

“The parties are still engaged in plea negotiations. Defendant is presently obtaining the evidence to establish the legitimate source of the cash seized by the government which has become an issue during plea negotiations. The government has requested a counter offer from defendant which will be made as soon as it notifies the evidence requested by the government.

2- Defendant is not going to trial in the present case.

3- Defendant requests that the Court grant an extension of 30 days to finalize
plea negotiations.

WHEREFORE it is respectfully requested from this Hon. Court that it extend the
time period to finalize plea negotiations another 30 days.”

Lall is also embroiled in a civil matter where he stands to lose his jet and other assets based on money laundering charges based on activity over several years, whereby he made multiple deposits amounting to US$6.4M. The source of those funds are yet to be established. Lall owns a gas station in Guyana as well as a private jet service with a private hangar at CJIA.

Story and photo:

Kemraj Lall, CEO, Head of Operations of Exec Jet Club

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