(Trinidad Express) Transport Minister Devant Maharaj yesterday said that former Caribbean Airlines Ltd (CAL) chairman Arthur Lok Jack used a private jet to conduct business and let the State carrier pay for it.
Maharaj said one trip cost as much as US$6,000 and said under Lok Jack’s tenure, he racked up as much as a US$28,000 bill which CAL absorbed.
Maharaj made the statement at a signing of the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with CAL, the University of Trinidad and Tobago (UTT), National Helicopter, Metal Industries Company (MIC) and the Trinidad and Tobago Civil Aviation Authority at the CAL Hanger in Piarco yesterday.
Maharaj said he cited Lok Jack’s private jet use to highlight the differences between a Lok Jack-led board and the current board led by newly-installed chairman Rabindra Moonan.
Lok Jack was chairman of CAL from 2007 until he resigned in June 2010 after the government changed in May 2010.
Lok Jack responded yesterday during a telephone interview, saying that the jet was used on business related to the CAL-Air Jamaica merger.
Lok Jack said there were five trips by private jet between June 2009 and April 2010 at the height of the negotiations for the Air Jamaica deal.
He said the trips actually cost around US$5,000 each and were “very economical and good value for money”.
He said the negotiations were at a delicate stage and his presence as CAL chairman was required.
“It was a very urgent meeting. The negotiations were at a time-sensitive stage and we were working against a deadline,” he said.
Lok Jack said he and three or four people at a time used the jet.
He said only cash direct operating costs such as fuel and landing fees were paid.
The jet’s pilots were not paid.
Lok Jack said he met with Jamaican Cabinet members in a meeting to finalise the acquisition deal.
“The meeting ended somewhere around 2.30 a.m. at the Jamaican Minister of Finance’s office and I had to get back because I was travelling again the next day. There are no flights that time,” he said.
Lok Jack said he believed Maharaj was deliberately targeting him to deflect from the more serious issues of financial haemorrhage at the State carrier.
“I wonder what next they are going to try to dig up to create more smoke screens away from the main issues?” he asked.
“It would be better served if CAL concentrated on stemming the reported losses and do whatever surgery is necessary to bring the company back into profitability,” he said.
“There is so much negative energy, CAL should move on and sort itself out,” he said.